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Affrilachian Poets makalani bandele & Joy Priest
October 15, 2020 @ EST 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
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makalani bandele is a resident of Lexington, KY, an Affrilachian Poet, and Cave Canem fellow.
The recipient of fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council, Millay Colony, and Vermont Studio Center, his under the aegis of a winged mind was selected by Cornelius Eady for the 2019 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize. His first collection of poems, hellfightin’, was published by Willow Books in 2011. His work has been published in several anthologies and widely in print and online journals, including, among others, African-American Review, Killens Review of Arts and Letters, Sou’wester, Prairie Schooner, 32poems, and North American Review. A graduate of Shaw University with a Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies, Bandele currently attends the University of Kentucky in pursuit of an MFA in Creative Writing.
The poems in under the aegis of a winged mind are inspired by the life and times of the jazz composer and pianist Earl “Bud” Powell, a leading figure in the development of jazz who also faced struggles with police brutality, harassment, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental illness. This collection explores Powell’s life through a blend of both formal and free verse persona poems. The poems are multivocal, with the speaker often embodying Powell, himself, and sometimes a close friend or family member, a spectator of a performance, or a fellow musician. While the book follows the narrative of Powell’s life, the poems are experimental in form and presentation. As the book recounts Powell’s life, it also explores how Black genius has encountered, struggled against, and developed mechanisms to cope with White supremacy in the United States.
Joy Priest’s Horsepower (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019) received the 2019 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry from AWP. Poet Greg Parlo writes, “Through tragedy and triumph, Joy Priest’s poems thunder in the ears like a supercharged heartbeat . . . intense with paradox and heat, devotion is indistinguishable from rage. Let these poems comfort you, if you dare, soft as the pillow that hides the gun.” Her work has appeared in ESPN, Gulf Coast, Mississippi Review; The Rumpus; Virginia Quarterly Review; and Best New Poets 2014, 2016, and 2019, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of support from the Fine Arts Work Center, The Frost Place, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Priest has facilitated poetry workshops with incarcerated juvenile and adult women; and taught writing, comedy, and African American Arts & Culture at the university level. She received her MFA in poetry with a certificate in Women & Gender Studies from the University of South Carolina.
Priest’s debut collection, Horsepower, is a cinematic escape narrative that radically envisions a daughter’s waywardness as aspirational. Across the book’s three sequences, we find the black-girl speaker in the midst of a self-imposed exile, going back in memory to explore her younger self—a mixed race child being raised by her white supremacist grandfather in the shadow of Churchill Downs, Kentucky’s world-famous horseracing track—before arriving in a state of self-awareness to confront the personal and political landscape of a harshly segregated Louisville. Out of a space that is at once southern and urban, violent and beautiful, racially charged and working class, she attempts to transcend her social and economic circumstances. Unlike the traditional Bildungsroman, Priest presents a non-linear narrative in which the speaker lacks the freedom to come of age naively in the urban South, and must instead, from the beginning, possess the wisdom of “the horses & their restless minds.”
Joy Priest and makalani bandele will be in conversation with Tokeya C. Graham. Tokeya is an award-winning English Professor at a local community college where she teaches Literature, Composition, and Creative Writing courses. She is also a writer, activist, and community steward who uses her various platforms as gathering spaces for Blackness and all of its multi-layered expressions.