class=""MsoNormal"">SALISBURY, MD---National Poetry Series winner Tyehimba Jess reads from his inaugural book of poetry, Leadbelly, 8 p.m. Thursday, November 10, in the Montgomery Room of the Commons at Salisbury University. His reading is part of SU’s fall Writers-on-the-Shore series.
class=""MsoNormal"">Ledbelly recounts the life and sound of famed folk musician Huddie Ledbetter in a style award-winning poet Sterling Plumpp calls “tough yet beautiful, lyrical and poignant. Jess willingly accepts the challenges of vernacular in contemporary poetry, to push it further, to squeeze more from it, to improvise miraculously within it and then to riff his unique song. This is a major achievement.”
class=""MsoNormal"">Ledbetter, whose popular nickname is reflected in Jess’ title, became a leading figure in American folk music after being discovered in a Louisiana prison by musicologists John and Alan Lomax in 1933. A mentor to such luminaries as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, he recorded many folk and blues classics both commercially and for the Library of Congress prior to his death in 1949.
class=""MsoNormal"">“What rich and provocative territory the poems in Tyehimba Jess’ Leadbelly haul into us…”Poet Bright Pegeen Kelly says. “In an age when the poem of the mind prevails, so often a private poem, sotto voice, it is exhilarating to be invited into a world so large and muscular, so rooted in history, a world where so much is at stake.”
class=""MsoNormal"">“I suspect this book, about one man’s journey through the blues, is as close as a book of poetry may get to describing what it means… to have this music in your veins,” said poet Cornelius Eady.
class=""MsoNormal"">Author Toi Derricotte calls the book “one of the most powerful exchanges between history and poetry that I have read.”
class=""MsoNormal"">Renowned for his work since 1994, when he won the Sister Cities Poetry Contest, Jess served as Chicago’s poetry ambassador to Accra Ghana. He earned an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry in 2000 and won the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award in 2001. Other accolades included the Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award in 2001 and a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004. Most recently he served as the Winter Fellow at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Sponsored by the English Department and Office of Multiethnic Student Services, Jess’ reading is free and the public is invited. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu. "