Class and convocation collide as Centre College hosts the 2017 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Tyehimba Jess.
The event arrives as many spring humanities classes read his winning collection, Olio, offering students the opportunity to see the poet perform his work live on Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of Danville just off of Centre’s campus.
His second published book, Olio details the lives of unrecorded African-American performers from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of World War I. With a blend of verse and prose, Jess’s work tells the stories behind the development of blues, ragtime, jazz, hymns and other artistic innovations by these performers.
Reviews of the book note its outstanding aims and uniqueness within the canon of American poetry.
The Oxford American remarks, “Olio…is so ambitious, so relentless in its pursuit of the antebellum realities that remade our country; with its entrance into the canon we are jolted awake by a hundred alarms, a century’s racket.”
In an interview with Breakwater Review, Jess noted that his experience writing this stand-out work added to his perspective of history.
“I would say history is a circle. It’s very circular in many ways,” he said. “We’re still talking about the value of black art and the kind of hurdles that black artists have to overcome in order to have their work appreciated.
“When you’re dealing with history, you’re dealing—for good and for bad—with an echo chamber,” Jess continued.
“You’re talking about something that happened one-hundred years ago, and you’re also talking about what happened before then, what’s happening now and the possibilities of the future,” he concluded.
IF YOU GO
Olio: A Reading by 2017 Pulitzer-Prize winner in poetry Tyehimba Jess
Thursday, April 26
Presbyterian Church of Danville
By Kathleen Murphy ’18
April 25, 2018