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The selected poems from over fifty years by the great poet and biographer and friend of Miles Davis.
Quincy Troupe writes poetry in great waves. The words are just notes. It's the music you make with them that matters. He's not a wordsmith, he's a shaman conjuring long repetitive lines, cadences of looking across the sea towards Africa and haunted by the legacy of slavery and racism, or of remembering fellow conjurers, poets and musical artists, celebrating, always celebrating, but never only that.
In the fifty-page, incantatory poem, "Ghost Voices," there is a longing to be reconnected to the past, and a longing too to be free of it. In the short title poem, "Duende: For García Lorca and Miles Davis," there lies, nakedly, Troupe's credo: "...secrets, mystery infused in black magic / that enters bodies in forms of music, art/ poetry imbuing language with sovereignty / in blood spooling back through violent centuries..." The version of the great poem "Avalanche (number 3)" that appears here is different from the version of the same poem he published nearly 25 years ago--in exactly the same way that a jazz artist picks up his horn to play the same song a little differently every time.
Troupe is a generous and gregarious poet in this giant offering that includes many new poems, as well as a selection chosen from across his eleven previously published volumes. What's remarkable is the constancy, the energy, and how he's always looking right at you in the here and now, and at the same time sees something over your shoulder that others don't see yet, maybe a distant storm gathering over the waters, something we're going to need to rise up and face soon enough.
About the Author
Quincy Troupe may be the only American poet to have co-written two bestselling autobiographies, one of which, Miles: The Autobiography, is considered a milestone of contemporary jazz biography. With a career that has lasted 50 years, his greatest contribution is to American poetry, from his first collections of poems, Embryo (1972), Snake-Black Solos (1978), Skulls Along the River (1984), and Weather Reports (1991) to the many books he published with Coffee House Press including Avalanche (1996), Choruses (1999), Transcircularities (2002, winner of the 2003 Milt Kessler Poetry Award and selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the ten best poetry books of 2002), The Architecture of Language (2006, winner of the 2007 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement), and Errancities (2012) to the most recent, Ghost Voices (2019) and Seduction (2019). Troupe is also a biographer, journalist, professor, spoken word performer with noted jazz artists, alumnus of the Watts Writers Workshop, associated with the Black Arts Movement, former California poet laureate, children's book author, and magazine editor of Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noir. He co-wrote The Pursuit of Happyness, which spent over 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and was made into a major motion picture starring Will Smith. He is the author of Miles & Me, a memoir of his friendship with Miles Davis (Seven Stories Press), soon to be a major motion picture co-produced by Denzel Washington. He lives in Harlem with his wife, Margaret Porter Troupe, an arts curator and educator.
"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 Duende potion of Jazz and sweat with caution, 'cause the swagger of each line might just drown you to save your life."
—Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olio
"In this career-spanning collection, you don’t just read Quincy Troupe’s poetry: You are lifted by his word. 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."
—Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, author of The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois
"Hallelujah! There’s a hot new book from the peerless Quincy Troupe. Beyond his masterwork, Pursuit of Happyness, and his classic memoir on Miles Davis, Troupe has been celebrated for decades as a poet whose range enlarges the heart. Duende is this year’s comprehensive, must-read collection. Don’t miss the party."
—Mary Karr, author of The Liar's Club and Tropic of Squalor
"Quincy Troupe’s Duende is a 'must have' collection of this poetry icon’s lifetime’s output of poetic truth telling, spell casting, melodic improvising, record keeping, tonal shape shifting, and spirit reckoning. And much more."
—Michael Lally, author of Another Way to Play: Poems 1960-2017
"Back when Quincy and I taught poetry writing in prisons on Riker’s Island, he was already not 'first person I' but 'eye' as he appears here in Duende, in these blazing, unshackled, resounding poems. In other words, ego is checked by all that is beheld, all that the eye sees, condemns and celebrates in nonstop enumeration. This is pure imaginative freedom, this is poetry that can never be locked up or denied — it is music made by the eye and heart."
—Carol Muske-Dukes, author of Blue Rose
"Duende is an exuberant, full scale, magical tour through a life well-lived! Quincy’s mesmerizing rhythms and dazzling images nourish heart, mind and soul! I love this book!"
—Marilyn Chin, author of A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems