Jess, Tyehimba 1969(?)-

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Jess, Tyehimba 1969(?)-


Born c. 1969. Education: University of Chicago, B.A., 1991; New York University, M.F.A., 2004.


Home—Champaign, IL. Office— Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 608 S. Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail—[email protected].


Boulevard Arts Center, Chicago, IL, artist in residence, 1994-97; Young Chicago Authors, Chicago, writing instructor, 1999-2001; Gallery 37 Downtown Program, Chicago, lead artist, 1999-2001; Guild Complex, Chicago, workshop leader, 2000; Ella Flagg Young Elementary School, Chicago, poet in residence, 2001; Guild Complex: Prism Poetry Program, Chicago, poet in residence, 2002; Cave Canem Poetry Program at The Loft, Minneapolis, MN, poet in residence, 2002; Sheridan Correctional Center, Sheridan, IL, poet in residence, 2002; Jenner Elementary School, Chicago, poet in residence, 2002; Community Word Project, New York, NY, poet in residence, 2002; New York University, New York, NY, Starworks program and Goldwater program teaching fellow, 2002-03, adjunct professor, 2004-05; Cooper Union, New York, NY, Saturday program poetry instructor, 2003-04; Juilliard University, New York, NY, Department of Drama, adjunct professor, 2004; Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, winter fellow, 2004-05; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Department of English, assistant professor, 2005—.


Chicago Sister Cities Poetry Competition: Poetry Ambassador to Accra, Ghana, 1994; Chicago Artist Apprenticeship Program, fellowship, 1996; Cave Canem Retreat for African American Poets, scholarship, 1997; Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, 2000-01; Chicago Sun Times Poetry Award, 2001; Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Award, 2001; National Poetry Series for Leadbelly, 2004; National Endowment for the Arts, Literature Fellowship, 2005; Whiting Writers' Award for emerging writers of exceptional talent and promise, 2006; grant recipient, Chicago Neighborhood Artist Program; Ragdale Center for the Arts, fellowship; Illinois Arts Council Arts Tour Program, fellow.


African American Pride: Celebrating Our Achievements, Contributions, and Enduring Legacy, Citadel Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Leadbelly (poetry), Verse Press (Amherst, MA), 2005.

Contributor of poetry to anthologies including Soulfires: Young Black Men on Love and Violence, Penguin (New York, NY), 1996; Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry, Manic D Press (New York, NY), 2000; Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2001; Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-first Century, Black Classic Press (New York, NY), 2002; Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art, Third World Press (New York, NY), 2002; and Dark Matter 2: Reading the Bones, Aspect Press (New York, NY), 2004.


Tyehimba Jess grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and credits his father, who earned his doctorate, as an example that helped foster his own strong interest in academic achievement. Both a poet and a teacher, Jess got his start as part of the slam poetry movement in Chicago during the 1990s, and as a result considers himself as much a performer as a poet. Much of his work focuses on the father/son or the teacher/student relationship. In addition to spending time on his own work, Jess serves as an assistant professor of English at the university level, and has taught numerous children to both enjoy and attempt to create their own poetry. He has been awarded numerous awards and fellowships, including a literature fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was honored as one of the few poets to serve as a cultural ambassador from Chicago to Accra, Ghana, through the Sister Cities program. Leadbelly, Jess's first collection of poems, contains a series of poems written from the point of view of the titular blues musician. Jess used the work to examine the ways in which a legend loses access to the commonplace thoughts and occurrences that make one human, and to look at our perceptions regarding fame. Mark Eleveld, in a review for Booklist, called Jess's effort "a unique book that will speak to any lover of blues or close reader of American history." In a contribution for Library Journal, Karla Huston described the collection as "an astonishing book, an unflinching chronicle of the life of a great musician."



America's Intelligence Wire, November 16, 2006, "U. Illinois Professor Gains Acclaim, Erases Debt with Poetry Award."

Black Issues Book Review, March-April, 2005, Quraysh Ali Lansana, "NEA Awards Four Brothers in Verse," p. 34; March-April, 2006, Camille Dungy, "In Other Voices: The Millennial Poets and Personae," p. 16.

Booklist, September 1, 2005, Mark Eleveld, review of Leadbelly, p. 43.

Library Journal, December 1, 2005, Karla Huston, review of Leadbelly, p. 134; April 15, 2006, Barbara Hoffert, "Best Poetry of 2005: Celebrate National Poetry Month with 17 Major Titles," p. 80.

ONLINE, (December 26, 2006), author biography., (December 26, 2006), "From Slam to the Academy—Is It Really That Long a Stretch?"

Tyehimba Jess Home Page, (December 26, 2006).

University of Illinois English Department Web site, (December 26, 2006), author biography.