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Tyehimba Jess

Documentary Poetics v. American History: Beyond Critical Race Theory to See Reality

Tyehimba Jess, photo by John Midgley
Tyehimba Jess, photo by John Midgley
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Tyehimba Jess imagines with you the possibilities of storytelling the many complicated truths of a nation’s legacy. In this class, we will all work together researching historical subjects to uncover the dirty roots of American history that go beyond theory and are rooted in fact in order to explore conjecture.

In the fall, students will be asked to submit three poems. We will discuss this work and other poems in detail during the week.

In addition, we will be generative throughout our time together, exploring and fine tuning your voice and perspective. You will be provided with reading material in advance of class.

All are welcome to engage in this timely discussion and work on enlivening and deepening their own work. You do not need prior knowledge of this theme. You will come away with a fresh understanding of how legacy and perspective plays into creative work, as well as a sense of how poetry contributes to community and purpose.


  • This is an all levels workshop.
  • Please submit a cover letter that states your interest in this workshop and gives an overview of your prior workshop experience, if any.
  • The cost is $675. If you are selected to participate in the workshop, a deposit of $300 is required to register, with the balance due by September 30.
  • If you are accepted into a workshop and would like to attend some of the Seminar, a space will be available to you at a reduced price of $3oo (you will be notified of this option upon acceptance into the program). The Seminar runs from January 12 – 15.
  • Financial Assistance is available to those who would not otherwise be able to attend—click here for guidelines and/or to apply for a Workshop Fellowship Award.
  • Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full.



Tyehimba Jess is the author of two books of poetry, Leadbelly and Olio, which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Society of Midland Authors poetry award, and received an Outstanding Contribution to Publishing Citation from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Olio was also nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Jess has won the Whiting Award in Poetry, the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has also been awarded fellowships from Cave Canem, National Endowment for the Arts, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Illinois Arts Council. He is a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill poetry slam team, won the Chicago Sun-Times poetry award, and presented his poetry at TedxNashville.

Jess’s fiction and poetry have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American PoetryBeyond The Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century; Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art; Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam; and Poetry Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry.

Jess is an alumni of New York University and a professor of English at College of Staten Island.