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A Celebration Of African-American Poetry At U.Va. Oct. 28 Will Feature Legendary Poet Gwendolyn Brooks

Oct. 8, 1999 -- Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, one of the America’s most revered cultural figures, will join a host of other notable guests for a special evening devoted to African-American poetry at the University of Virginia on Thursday, Oct. 28. The event will also feature jazz by the Free Bridge Quintet with vocals by Kyra Gaunt.

The 8 p.m. program, open to the public in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium, marks the publication, by the University Press of Virginia, of "Harlem Gallery and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson," edited by U.Va. English professor Raymond Nelson, and of "The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry," a major collection of interviews and essays edited by James Madison University English professor Joanne V. Gabbin. The event is sponsored by the Press with support from the U.Va. President's and Provost's offices, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, and the Furious Flowering Poetry Center at JMU.

Joining Brooks, Nelson and Gabbin will be Tolson’s son, Melvin B. Tolson Jr., and U.Va. English professor and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, who wrote an introduction to the new Tolson collection.

Tolson’s "Harlem Gallery and Other Poems" collection brings together for the first time the full body of poetry of one of black America’s most important modern voices. "Harlem Gallery" has been praised as a masterpiece about African-American life, with a strong concern with social justice and a powerful range of tones and mesmerizing imagery. Tolson’s poetry won significant praise during his lifetime but has been our of print for decades.

The poet’s son, Melvin Tolson Jr., a retired professor of French at the University of Oklahoma, will be returning to the place of his birth. His mother, Ruth Southall Tolson, en route to Texas from New York, briefly stayed in Charlottesville to be with members of her extensive Virginia family.

Gwendolyn Brooks, who in 1949 became the first black poet to win the Pulitzer Prize, is the author of many popular poems that deal with everyday life of urban African-Americans. Born in 1917, she has lived in Chicago most of her life.

Her poetry collections include "A Street in Bronzeville," "The Bean Eaters," "Selected Poems," "In the Mecca," "Children Coming Home," and many others. She served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985-86.

Dove also won the Pulitzer Prize, in 1987, and served as Poet Laureate and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993-95.

James Madison University English professor Joanne V. Gabbin edited "The Furious Flowering of African American Poetry" collection of interviews and essays about black poetry, with its wellsprings in jazz and vernacular culture and its inescapable political dimension. The volume grew out of a major conference in 1994 at James Madison University.

Contact: Bob Brickhouse, (804) 924-6856 or Mary Kathryn Hassett, (804) 924-6064

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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