As a poet, author, editor, and educator, Quincy Troupe has chronicled the stories of some of America’s most striking figures.
Among the biographies and tributes he has edited or co-written are james baldwin (Publisher: James Baldwin: The Legacy), NBA great Earl Monroe (Earl the Pearl), entrepreneur-philanthropist Chris Gardner (The Pursuit of Happiness), and his late friend, jazz trumpeter Miles Davis (Miles: the Autobiography and miles and me). With a career now spanning over 60 years and multiple genres, Troupe is a legend in his own right, the holder of an impressive literary legacy captured in his latest collection of poetry, goblinand: Poems, 1966-Now.
The over 600-page collection is a master class in poetry conveyed in Troupe’s characteristically lyrical style, always with a love for Black and brown people at its center. Lauded by fellow writers, scholars, and luminaries since its late January release, longtime friends actor Danny Glover and author Terry McMillan will discuss Troupe’s latest release and ongoing career via a virtual roundtable hosted by the San Francisco Public Library on Thursday, Feb. 10.
speaking with theGriothe poet and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Diego discussed the wide breadth of both literary and musical influences that have colored his work and how he hopes readers will receive Elf.
“As a poet, I fervently hope that people who read Elf engage with my poetry, and also understand that this book of 656 pages spans close to 60 years and covers many different styles and influences by several important poets, mainly: Pablo Neruda, Amiri Barak, Jean Joseph Rabéarivelo, Cesar Vallejo, Walt Whitman, Federico García Lorca, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Langston Hughes, james baldwin, Aime Cesaire and Derek Walcottto name a few.
My poetry is also influenced by the rhythms of contemporary music, especially Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Hamiet Bluiett, Kelvin Bell, Kassav’, Julius Hemphill, Bob Marley, Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, Tabou Combo, John Lee Hooker, Living Color, Stevie wonder, Aretha Franklinrock-n-roll, jazz, rap and even some classical European music,” he says.
“My work has also been impacted by some contemporary visual artists,” he continues, “like the Ethiopian painter Alexander “Skunder” Boghossianthe Cuban Jose Bedia ValdesAmericans Oliver Jackson, Romare Bearden, Al Loving, Peter Bradley, Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Mildred Howard, Jacob Lawrence, Ed Clark, Raymond Sanders, Melvin Edwardsand so many others.”
If his influences are broad, looking at the accolades that have poured in for Elfit’s impossible to ignore the 82-year-old’s influence upon a similarly broad scope of generations.
“In this career-spanning collection, you don’t just read Quincy Troupe’s poetry,” writes Honoree Fanonne Jeffersauthor of The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois. “You are lifted by his word from him. You ride syllables and sound and glory. You grasp articulated root-working, know that you are traveling with mastery, the ‘tongue’s edge, high-strung, at edge of the cliff.’ That’s right. You understand there is no end to this man’s brilliance.”
poet Tyehimba Jess shares equally effusive praise, writing in the book’s liner notes: “Quincy Troupe is a hoodoo soothsayer of poetry whose iconic riffs peal across each page as they peel back layers of America’s history. Reader—open this hefty Elf potion of Jazz and sweat with caution, ’cause the swagger of each line might just drown you to save your life,” he writes.
If there’s a theme that runs throughout Troupe’s work other than music, it’s a spirit of collaboration; a commitment that has remained consistent in the face of a world that often tells Black artists there can only be one at a time.
“I have always embraced continuing to work creatively in a collaborative way with other like-minded artists who value what the African, African American, and Caribbean cultural heritage and experience teaches us in our work, and especially on a performative level,” says Troupe , adding: “One of the greatest disappointments in my life was that Miles Davis died before he and I could collaborate on a project we had talked about doing together.”
Despite the adulation, Troupe remains humble in his response, particularly when theGrio mentions his status as a living literary icon.
“I am happy and gratified that some of my contemporary peers have said they have been influenced by some of my writing,” he says. “But I am profoundly grateful that younger generations of visual artists, writers, poets, and musicians have said, in your words, that I am ‘revered as an icon’. Now, that is stunning to me and I am humbled to hear this…because I am a still-working artist!”
You can hear about Elf, Troupe’s storied career and more San Francisco Public Library’s Thursday event; register HERE.
Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work by Ella is informed by two decades’ experience in the fashion and entertainment industries, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).
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