The Story Always Unsold

Blues is the tap root of American expression, the national reference point for the sound of healing amidst the grind of mourning, the highly marketable yet distinctly ephemeral sense of urgency beneath the rhythms of economy, heart, freedom and constraint. This craft lab will offer a reflection on the history of the Blues and its influence on American poetry, with an emphasis on its manifestation in and out of formal verse. Blues artists and poets discussed will include Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, Elizabeth Cotten, Sterling Plumpp, Harryette Mullen and Langston Hughes. Participants will write their own Blues and identify its elements in their own lives, seeking to find “a way out of no way” through their own personal/political analysis and practice.

All participants will have access to a cloud recording of the craft lab for one month afterward.

Craft Lab Details

Tyehimba Jess is the author of two books of poetry: Leadbelly, a 2004 National Poetry Series winner; and Olio, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Midland Society Author’s Award in Poetry. Olio also received an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN Jean Stein Book Award and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. For his work Jess has been awarded an NEA fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Illinois Arts Council fellowship, and he has won a Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award, a Lannan Literary Award and a Whiting award. A Cave Canem and NYU alum, Jess is a professor of English at the College of Staten Island–CUNY.