Quraysh Ali Lansana

b. 1964
Quraysh Ali LansanaBrent Jones
Quraysh Ali Lansana was born Ron Myles in Enid, Oklahoma. Lansana originally worked in broadcast journalism in Oklahoma, but after he lost his job and discovered the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, he moved to Chicago. There he became familiar with the local poetry scene, performing with the poetry groups Brothers in Verse and Wordsmyths. He converted to Islam in 1992 and changed his name; Quraysh is the name of an Islamic tribe, and Ali means “the greatest.” When he married in 1996, the priest gave the couple the name Lansana, which means “storyteller” in Mende, the language of Sierra Leone. Though Lansana no longer practices Islam, he has retained the name.

His books of poetry include cockroach children: corner poems and street psalms (1995), Southside Rain (2000), They Shall Run (2004) and Mystic Turf (2012). Poet Susan Wheeler commented on They Shall Run, his collection of poems based on the life of Harriet Tubman: “Lansana has re-imag(in)ed her heroism—a moment of grace in this sad, great country’s history—and he lights her stubbornness and devotion and courage with his rich language.”

Lansana received the 1999 Henry Blakely Award (presented by Gwendolyn Brooks) and the 2000 Poet of the Year Award from Chicago’s Black Book Fair. He is the author of a children’s book, The Big World (1999), and co-editor of Dream of a Word: The Tia Chucha Press Poetry Anthology (2006) and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art (2002).

Lansana lives in Chicago with his wife and children; a former director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing, he is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Chicago State University. He also offers poetry workshops for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

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Articles About QURAYSH ALI LANSANA

Audio & Podcasts

Chicago Poetry Tour Podcast
  • Listen DuSable Museum
    The DuSable Museum is one of the nation's premier institutions dedicated to the history, art, and culture of the African diaspora. Quraysh Ali Lansana reads from his collection They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems.
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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

LIFE SPAN 1964–

Quraysh Ali Lansana

Biography

Quraysh Ali Lansana was born Ron Myles in Enid, Oklahoma. Lansana originally worked in broadcast journalism in Oklahoma, but after he lost his job and discovered the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, he moved to Chicago. There he became familiar with the local poetry scene, performing with the poetry groups Brothers in Verse and Wordsmyths. He converted to Islam in 1992 and changed his name; Quraysh is the name of an Islamic tribe, . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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