Quincy Troupe

b. 1943
Quincy Troupe was born in 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of baseball player in the Negro baseball leagues. Troupe’s energetic, highly syncopated poetry melds contemporary music rhythms—such as rap, jazz, and be-bop—to a “furious rush of images, sometimes jarring, arising from personal experience,” according to critic Tony Perry in the Los Angeles Times. Celebratory, but also cautionary, Troupe’s subjects range from jazz and sports to racism and urban decay; a member of the Watts Writers Workshop in the 1960s, he is frequently grouped with Black Arts Movement writers like Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, and Haki Madhubuti. Troupe’s poetry collections include the American Book Award winning Snake-back Solos: Selected Poems, 1969–1977 (1979), Weather Reports: New and Selected Poems (1991), Avalanche (1996), Choruses (1999), Transcircularities: New and Selected Poems (2002), The Architecture of Language (2007), which won the Paterson Award for Sustained Achievement, and Errançities (2011). A noted performer of his work, Troupe has twice won the prestigious Heavyweight Champion of Poetry, a distinction given by the World Poetry Bout of Taos. Troupe has also founded and edited magazines such as Confrontation: A Journal of Third World Literature, American Rag, and Code, where he was Editorial Director.
 
In addition to books of poetry, Troupe has written, co-written, and edited an impressive number of nonfiction works and anthologies. With Rainer Schulte, he edited Giant Talk: An Anthology of Third World Writings (1975), an anthology of poems, folk tales, short stories, and novel excerpts by black Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, black Africans, and Central and South Americans. Jack Slater declared the anthology “comprehensive” in the New York Times Book Review. Troupe also co-wrote The Inside Story of TV's "Roots" (1978) with David L. Wolper, which chronicles the production of the highly successful television miniseries about slavery in America, Roots, based on Alex Haley's book of the same title; the book has sold over one million copies. Troupe edited James Baldwin: The Legacy (1987), a collection of tributes and remembrances from writers like Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, Chinua Achebe, and others. However, Troupe’s most popular nonfiction works have to do with the jazz great Miles Davis. His collaboration with Davis, on the book Miles: The Autobiography (1989), won the American Book Award. Later, Troupe wrote his own account of their friendship in Miles and Me (2000). Troupe has been inspired by, and fascinated with, Davis since he first heard his music as teenager in St. Louis. In an interview with Douglas Turner, Troupe admitted: “If I had not heard Miles’s music in that fish joint, I don’t think that I would be sitting here looking at this beautiful view I’m looking at now. Miles set me on a path that is remarkable in a lot of ways. He’s on that set me on the path to writing and using my imagination, and being creative…That’s what fate is. Because I heard that music, he propelled me into this thing that I do now.” With Chris Gardner, Troupe also co-wrote The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Gardner’s rags-to-riches autobiography. The book spent over 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was turned into a blockbuster Hollywood film starring Will Smith.

In his interview with Turner, Troupe reflected on the various identities he has both assumed and been asked to assumed. He said: “I see myself as an artist and a poet. I’m basically influenced by and coming out of the African American, but American, tradition. I’m African American because I was born African American and proud of it. I don’t run away from that. But as an artist, I see myself as a poet first, and then I see myself as a prose writer. I agree with Miles. He looked at himself as a musician and an artist…I come out of St. Louis, the black culture there and the music there. I grew up in the church. I was a basketball player. I’m a poet. That’s the way I approach myself.”
 
Though Troupe went to Grambling College on a scholarship, he dropped out after two semesters and joined the army. Moving to Los Angeles after his service had ended, he began teaching writing workshops with the Watts group, and later held positions at UCLA, Ohio University, The College of Staten Island, California State University, in the Columbia University Graduate Writing Program, as well as various institutions abroad. He taught at the University of California-San Diego for many years, and was California’s first official poet laureate before resigning over falsified academic credentials. He currently edits the journal Black Renaissance Noire, the publication of the Department of Africana Studies at New York University. He divides his time between New York and Goyave, Guadeloupe.

Career

Watts Writers' Movement, Los Angeles, CA, creative writing teacher, 1966-68; Shrewd (magazine), Los Angeles, associate editor, beginning 1968; University of California, Los Angeles, instructor in creative writing and black literature, 1968; Ohio University, Athens, instructor in creative writing and Third World literature, 1969-71; Richmond College, Staten Island, NY, instructor in third world literature, associate professor of American and third world literatures and director of poetry center, 1971-90; Columbia University, New York, NY, member of faculty of Graduate Writing Program, beginning 1985; instructor at institutions, including University of California at Berkeley, California State University at Sacramento, and University of Ghana at Legon; University of California at San Diego, instructor in creative writing and American, African American, and Caribbean literature, 1991-2002. Director of Malcolm X Center and John Coltrane summer festivals in Los Angeles, summers, 1969 and 1970. Has given poetry readings at various institutions, including Harvard University, New York University, Howard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Louisiana State University, Dartmouth College, Oberlin College, Ohio State University, University of Michigan, and Michigan State University. Presenter of lecture and readings series "Life Forces: A Festival of Black Roots" at the Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. Code magazine, editorial director, beginning 2000.

Bibliography

POETRY
  • Embryo Poems, 1967-1971, Barlenmir (New York, NY), 1972, 2nd edition, 1974.
  • Snake-back Solos: Selected Poems, 1969-1977, I. Reed Books (New York, NY), 1978.
  • Skulls along the River, I. Reed Books (New York, NY), 1984.
  • Soundings, Writers & Readers (New York, NY), 1988.
  • Weather Reports: New and Selected Poems,Writers & Readers (New York, NY), 1991.
  • Avalanche: Poems, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
  • Choruses: Poems, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
  • Transcircularities: New and Selected Poems, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2002.
  • The Architecture of Language, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.
  • Errançities, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2011.

OTHER

  • (Editor) Watts Poets: A Book of New Poetry and Essays, House of Respect, 1968.
  • (Editor, with Rainer Schulte) Giant Talk: An Anthology of Third World Writings, Random House (New York, NY), 1975.
  • (Author of foreword) Arnold Adoff, editor, Celebrations: A New Anthology of Black American Poetry, Follet (Chicago, IL), 1977.
  • (With David L. Wolper) The Inside Story of TV's "Roots," Warner Books (New York, NY), 1978.
  • (Editor) James Baldwin: The Legacy, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
  • (With Miles Davis) Miles: The Autobiography, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY, 1989.
  • Miles and Me, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2000.
  • (With Chris Gardner) The Pursuit of Happyness, HarperCollins/Amistad (New York, NY), 2006.

CHILDREN’S POETRY

  • Take It to the Hoop, Magic Johnson, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Jump at the Sun (New York, NY), 2000.
  • Little Stevie Wonder, Illustrated by Lisa Cohen, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.
  • Hallelujah: The Story of Ray Charles, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Disney/Hyperion (New York, NY), 2013.

 
Also author of a screenplay, with Hugh Masekala; author of film script Thelonious Monk: American Composer, for Multiprises Film (New York, NY). Also founding editor of Confrontation: A Journal of Third World Literature and American Rag; guest editor of black poetry and black fiction issues of Mundus Artium, 1973; senior editor of River Styx, 1983—. Work represented in anthologies, including The New Black Poetry, 1969; We Speak As Liberators, 1970; New Black Voices, 1972; Black Spirits, 1972; Poetry of Black America, 1973; and A Rock against the Wind, 1973. Contributor to periodicals, including New Directions, Mundus Artium, Iowa Review, Black World, Callaloo, Essence, Antioch Review, Black Creation, Negro American Literature Forum, Umbra, Mediterranean Review, Concerning Poetry, Sumac, Paris Match, Black Review, New York Quarterly, and Village Voice.
 


Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 41: Afro-American Poets since 1955, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1985.
PERIODICALS
  • African American Review, spring, 2001, Douglas Henry Daniels, review of Miles and Me,pp. 152-153.
  • American Visions,February-March, Nzadi Zimele Keita, "Quincy Troupe," 1993, p. 30.
  • Black Issues Book Review, November-December, 2002, Hoke S. Clover III, review of Transcircularities,p. 63.
  • Black Scholar,March-April, 1981; summer, 1990.
  • Booklist, March 15, 2000, Bill Ott, review of Miles and Me,p. 1311.
  • Chronicle of Higher Education,April 4, 2003, Robin Wilson, "Fall from Grace: One Lie, Retold over 26 Years, Undoes a Professor's Teaching Career," p. A10.
  • down beat,December, 1989, p. 69; November, 1990, p. 68.
  • Economist,March 17, 1990, p. 86.
  • Essence,September, 1989, p. 28.
  • Freedomways,Volume 10, number 2, 1980.
  • Library Journal, October 1, 1989, p. 97; February 15, 2000, William Kenz, review of Miles and Me,p. 165.
  • Los Angeles Times,December 4, 2002, Tony Perry, "Poet Resigns Post at UC San Diego over Resume Lie," p. B6.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 30, 1989, Clancy Sigal, review of James Baldwin: The Legacy,p. 1.
  • Mother Jones,December, 1989, p. 42.
  • Nation,January 29, 1990, p. 139.
  • New Republic,February 12, 1990, p. 30.
  • New Statesman,January 5, 1990, p. 34.
  • New York Times Book Review, November 30, 1975, Jack Slater, review of Giant Talk; October 21, 1979, Michael S. Harper, review of Snake-back Solos; October 15, 1989, p. 7; April 9, 2000, Gene Santoro, review of Miles and Me,p. 22.
  • Publishers Weekly, March 17, 1989, p. 88; September 1, 1989, p. 69; January 20, 1992, p. 58; August 2, 1993, p. 31; March 18, 1996, review of Avalanche, p. 66; August 30, 1999, review of Choruses, p. 78; February 7, 2000, review of Miles and Me, pp. 77-78; September 23, 2002, Michael Scharf, review of Transcircularities,p. 69.
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 2000, Kevin C. Johnson, "Larry Flynt-Backed CodeGives Black Males a Voice," p. E1.
  • Tribune Books, (Chicago), March 19, 1989, Nicholas Delbanco, review of James Baldwin.
  • Variety,January 3, 1990, p. 46.
  • Washington Post Book World, April 16, 1989, Charles R. Larson, review of James Baldwin, p. 1.
ONLINE
  • Academy of American Poets Web site, http://www.poets.org/ (May 1, 2003).

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LIFE SPAN 1943–

Biography

Quincy Troupe was born in 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of baseball player in the Negro baseball leagues. Troupe’s energetic, highly syncopated poetry melds contemporary music rhythms—such as rap, jazz, and be-bop—to a “furious rush of images, sometimes jarring, arising from personal experience,” according to critic Tony Perry in the Los Angeles Times. Celebratory, but also cautionary, Troupe’s subjects range from jazz . . .

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