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Tyehimba Jess

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Tyehimba Jess was born in Detroit, Michigan, and earned a BA from the University of Chicago and an MFA from New York University. He is the author of Olio (Wave Books, 2016), winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and leadbelly (Wave Books, 2005), winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Jess has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship, and a Whiting Award. He is the poetry and fiction editor of African American Review and an associate professor of English at the College of Staten Island.

by this poet


John William Boone (1864-1927) world-renowned Ragtime                pianist.


my motto for life

                      - merit, not sympathy, wins-

                                              my song against death.


Carved Marble. Edmonia Lewis, 1875
My God is the living God,
God of the impertinent exile.
An outcast who carved me
into an outcast carved
by sheer and stony will
to wander the desert
in search of deliverance
the way a mother hunts
for her wayward child.
God of each eye fixed to heaven,
God of the

the war speaks at night
with its lips of shredded children,
with its brow of plastique
and its fighter jet breath,
and then it speaks at daybreak
with the soft slur of money
unfolding leaf upon leaf.
it speaks between the news
programs in the music
of commercials, then