We’ve been fans of poet and Detroit native Tyehimba Jess ever since he spoke and performed at the NBI Festival back in 2011. When I recapped the festival, I wrote:
Imagine poetry that can be read top to bottom, bottom to top, in both directions across, and still make sense. That’s what Tyehimba Jess has created, all based on the Arabic ghazal form of poetry.
Sadly, the video didn’t capture what we experienced in the room, as the audience was able to follow along with the poem onscreen and see how he constructed it and made it make sense no matter which way he read it.
Since then, he’s continued to grow as both a writer and performer. His latest book, Olio, was just released on April 5. What’s it about? Check out this Amazon description (affiliate link):
Part fact, part fiction, Tyehimba Jess’s much anticipated second book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstrelize them.
Sounds dope, right? Looking forward to picking up my copy this afternoon, at Tyehimba’s book launch. If you’re in the Brooklyn area, come through.