LIVESTREAM: Quincy Troupe, Duende: Poems, 1966-Now, with Willie Perdomo
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The great poet and biographer and friend of Miles Davis shares selected poems from over fifty years, in conversation with New York City Book Award-winning poet Willie Perdomo.
Quincy Troupe writes poetry in great waves. The words are just notes. It's the music you make with them that matters. He's not a wordsmith, he's a shaman conjuring long repetitive lines, cadences of looking across the sea towards Africa and haunted by the legacy of slavery and racism, or of remembering fellow conjurers, poets and musical artists, celebrating, always celebrating, but never only that.
In the fifty-page incantatory poem, "Ghost Voices," there is a longing to be reconnected to the past, and a longing too to be free of it. In the short title poem, "Duende: For García Lorca and Miles Davis," there lies, nakedly, Troupe's credo: "...secrets, mystery infused in black magic / that enters bodies in forms of music, art / poetry imbuing language with sovereignty / in blood spooling back through violent centuries..." The version of the great poem "Avalanche (number 3)" that appears here is different from the version of the same poem he published nearly 25 years ago - in exactly the same way that a jazz artist picks up his horn to play the same song a little differently every time.
Troupe is a generous and gregarious poet in this giant offering that includes many new poems, as well as a selection chosen from across his eleven previously published volumes. What's remarkable is the constancy, the energy, and how he's always looking right at you in the here and now, and at the same time sees something over your shoulder that others don't see yet, maybe a distant storm gathering over the waters, something we're going to need to rise up and face soon enough.
Quincy Troupe may be the only American poet to have co-written two bestselling autobiographies, one of which, Miles: The Autobiography, is considered a milestone of contemporary jazz biography. With a career that has lasted 50 years, his greatest contribution is to American poetry, from his first collections of poems, Embryo (1972), Snake-Black Solos (1978), Skulls Along the River (1984), and Weather Reports (1991) to the many books he published with Coffee House Press including Avalanche (1996), Choruses (1999), Transcircularities (2002, winner of the 2003 Milt Kessler Poetry Award and selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the ten best poetry books of 2002), The Architecture of Language (2006, winner of the 2007 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement), and Errancities (2012) to the most recent, Ghost Voices (2019) and Seduction (2019). Troupe is also a biographer, journalist, professor, spoken word performer with noted jazz artists, alumnus of the Watts Writers Workshop, associated with the Black Arts Movement, former California poet laureate, children's book author, and magazine editor of Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noir. He co-wrote The Pursuit of Happyness, which spent over 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and was made into a major motion picture starring Will Smith. He is the author of Miles & Me, a memoir of his friendship with Miles Davis (Seven Stories Press), soon to be a major motion picture co-produced by Denzel Washington. He lives in Harlem with his wife, Margaret Porter Troupe, an arts curator and educator.
Willie Perdomo is the author of Smoking Lovely: The Remix, The Crazy Bunch, The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon, and Where a Nickel Costs of Dime. Winner of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly Award for Poetry, the New York City Book Award, and a PEN Open Book Award, Perdomo was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Poetry Society of America Norma Farber First Book Award. He is co-editor of the anthology Latínext, and his work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, African Voices, and Best American Poetry 2019. He teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy and was recently appointed State Poet of New York, 2021-2023.
This event is generously supported by the Lyn Chase Poetry Fund.
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