Award-Winning African-American Poets
Tim Seibles and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers to Read at Smith
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Smith College will
present a poetry reading by two award-winning African-American poets:
Tim Seibles and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. The reading will be held
at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 17, in Stoddard Hall Auditorium and is
free and open to the public.
Born in Philadelphia in 1955 to a high school English teacher and a
biochemist, Seibles' love for Greek and Roman mythology and dreams of
writing science fiction novels were balanced by a driving ambition to
become a professional football player. Drawn to Southern Methodist University
for football, he found his way to poetry while an undergraduate there.
He later completed a master's degree in creative writing at Vermont College.
Seibles' streetwise, syncopated poems zero in on such wide-ranging subjects
as basketball, sex, dogs, race in America and the inner thoughts of cartoon
characters. "This is not a poetry of a highfalutin violin nor the
somber cello," wrote Sandra Cisneros, "but a melody you heard
somewhere that followed you home." Reginald McKnight testifies, "...
you'll at times feel bruised, at times made love to. I read a lot of
poetry. I've never read poetry like this." Seibles moves, as he
says, "between the polarities of delight and rage."
In addition to his five books of poetry, most recently "Hammerlock" (1999),
Seibles' poems have appeared widely in journals such as The Kenyon Review
and Black American Literary Forum, as well as in the anthologies "Outsiders," "Verse
and Universe," "In Search of Color Everywhere," "A
Way Out of No Way" and "New American Poets in the 90s."
Seibles lives in eastern Virginia, where he teaches in the Master of
Fine Arts Program at Old Dominion University.
Jeffers' first book, "The Gospel of Barbecue," was chosen
for the 1999 Wick Prize for Poetry by Lucille Clifton, who called it "sweet
and sassy, hot and biting." This collection -- finalist for the
2001 Paterson Poetry Prize and Converse College's 2002 Julia Peterkin
Award winner -- is rich with flavor and music, but also with stories
of personal and political violation. "I hear people and I feel them
inside of me, inside my skin," she says. "The people who come
to me come because I understand and I've been there. They are voiceless."
Jeffers credits "the courageous authors who spoke to me in my childhood" for
her own inspiration -- writers like James Baldwin and Audre Lorde --
and dedicates her second volume, "Outlandish Blues," "to
Mama and Mr. Langston Hughes." She also acknowledges -- and the
poems reflect -- her large debt to many black recording artists, including
Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Aretha Franklin. The book
is full of fiery and forthright lyrics that burst from the page into
song. "Outlandish Blues" explores the "blue notes" shared
by the secular and spiritual traditions and features such diverse characters
as Dinah Washington and Lot's Wife. Despair is met with wit and grace
and sweaty honesty: "I don't write uplifting poems. The uplift is
in the survival."
A founding member of Cave Canem, the writers' colony for African-American
poets, Jeffers is recipient of awards from the Rona Jaffe Foundation
and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for Women and has been a fellow
at Breadloaf and MacDowell colonies. While she grew up in Kokomo, Ind.,
and currently teaches at the University of Oklahoma, Jeffers was educated
at Talladega College and the University of Alabama and ended up spending
some 20 years in Alabama, which she still considers home.
The reading will be followed by book-selling and signing. For more information,
call Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen
Doré Watson, director, at (413) 585-3368.
Office of College
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174
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