"Jess's work displays a deep sense of cool black consciousness, especially in regard to musicality. He works with an expressive tradition that blends sensibilities of field holler, spiritual encodings, gospel moan and groan, work song cadence, blue notes, and jook joint jazz." – Howard Ramsby II, Sou'wester
Part fact, part fiction, Tyehimba Jess's much anticipated second book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers, musicians and artists directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstrelize them.
So, while I lead this choir, I still find that
I'm being ledI'm a missionary
mending my faith in the midst of this flock
I toil in their fields of praise. When folks see
these freedmen stand and sing, they hear their God
speak in tongues. These nine dark mouths sing shelter;
they echo a hymn's haven from slavery's weather.
Detroit native Tyehimba Jess' first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU Alumni, has received fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Arts Council, and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Jess is also a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill Poetry Slam Team. He exhibited his poetry at the 2011 TedX Nashville Conference. Jess is Associate Professor of English at College of Staten Island.
Encyclopedic, ingenious, and abundant, this outsized second volume from Jess celebrates the works and lives of African-American musicians, artists, and orators who predated the Harlem Renaissance. --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review It's been a decade since Tyehimba Jess's debut, and this sprawling, extraordinary book shows he's used his time well. --Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR This daring collection, which blends forthright, musically acute language with portraiture (e.g., poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Scott Joplin, and Booker T. Washington) to capture the African American experience from the Civil War to World War I. An impressive follow-up to leadbelly. --Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal, Starred Review Olio is one of the most inventive, intensive poetic undertakings of the past decade...Through photos, drawings, interviews, foldouts, tables, facts, fictions, and yes, so many strong poems ... Olio assembles and raises the voices of an essential chorus: "Listen to how we sing while we/ promises unto ourselves not to die." -Boston Globe The content of this book really is a remarkable one...Tyehimba Jess gathers the histories of the lives--untold lives of many of the African-American artists who sort of built the blues and jazz and the sound that...we consider quintessentially American. And he's written these poems as history in a variety of voices, in a chorus. -All Things Considered Once I closed these pages I came to the conclusion that Tyehimba is our Langston--not necessarily in terms of style or lyrical sensibility, but in terms of proficiency and historical impact. It is the rigor with which this book archives history, offers new narratives and context for the "characters" it contains that leads me to the conclusion that readers a century from now will count this among the treasures that are emblematic of this era. -African Voices If you've been wanting to get into poetry but haven't been willing to give up the power, characters, and length of a novel, Olio is the book for you. -Lit Hub A tremendous, and tremendously accessible, book of poetry. -Brooklyn Magazine I don't want to overstate the case, but there is no way around it: Tyehimba Jess's Olio is a tour de force. -On the Seawall Tyehimba Jess's second book, Olio, is a book without rules, blues on the page. It weaves new and reimagined facts with poetry, prose, and biographies of first-generation freed slaves who performed in minstrel shows. A spellbinding and lyrical melange of verse, Olio resembles its namesake--a minstrel show's hodgepodge variety act that later evolved into Vaudeville, "the heart of American show business." -Tupelo Quarterly Historical personae has long proven to be a useful protest tool against oppression, and is, for this reason, not new to African-American poetry. Olio, though, 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. -Oxford American [T]he variety that Tyehimba Jess packs into Olio amply supports his goals of celebrating African-American musicial genius and bearing "wit-ness" (in the dual sense of affirming truth and acknowledging intelligence and agency) to "first generation freed voices," especially those of never recorded nineteenth-century artists. At 235 pages, Olio is so plentiful it is impossible to read in one sitting. Not only does its format invite browsing, but Jess encourages readers to "weave your own chosen way between the voices." -Hudson Review This 21st century hymnal of black evolutionary poetry, this almanac, this theatrical melange of miraculous meta-memory. Tyehimba Jess is inventive, prophetic, wondrous. He writes unflinchingly into the historical clefs of blackface, black sound, human sensibility. After the last poem is read we have no idea how long we've been on our knees. --Nikky Finney
Number Of Pages: 256
Published: 12th April 2016
Publisher: Wave Books
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 25.4 x 20.4 x 1.8
Weight (kg): 0.6