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Slade Celebrates Human Spirit with 'Triumph'
March 5, 2010
"I was inspired to write these poems to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit," said Professor of Africana Studies Leonard A. Slade Jr., who has published his 13th book of poetry, Triumph.
Slade is a Collins Fellow (2005) and Citizen Academic Laureate (2007) who has been published in Essence, U.S. News and World Report, Ebony, The American Poetry Review, and Education Next: Journal of Opinion and Research at Harvard University.
"I was inspired to write these poems to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit. Some poems are social protest poems; others deal with conflicts between cultures; a few are nature poems; some are about my reliance on God and faith as a source of transcendence," said Slade, who will be "39 plus" on March 13.
Slade studied poetry with Pulitzer Prize winners Stephen Dunn and Donald Justice. His work has been praised by Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Houston A. Baker, Jr.
"I write poetry to touch hearts, to inspire souls, to share truths, and to build bridges for the survival of civilization. In short, Triumph is a modest contribution to the intellectual and aesthetic enlargement of people's lives," said Slade, who is teaching courses in African-American poetry and African-American literature this spring.
"Poetry opens the doors of students' imaginations and excites them to some new and deeper feeling," he said. "Students learn that poetry is an art, like music and painting, which adds to our enjoyment of the pleasant things of life. Poetry is food for the soul. I am convinced that it can help make all of us better human beings."
As the oldest of nine children of Elizabeth and Leonard Slade Sr., growing up on the family farm in the racially mixed town of Conway, N.C., Slade learned something about perseverance from his parents, who worked hard, growing peanuts, cotton, and corn. They succeeded in putting all of their children through college.
Professor of Africana Studies Leonard A. Slade Jr. is teaching courses in African-American poetry and literature this spring. (Photo Mark Schmidt)
With a doctorate in English from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Slade taught English at Kentucky State University from 1965-1988, before joining the University at Albany that same year.
He is a prolific poet who has won many awards, including: the Ragdale Artists' Fellowship, the Northeast Modern Language Association Fellowship, the Poetry Book Award from the Southern Conference on African-American Studies, and two National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education awards. Under Slade's leadership as chair of the Department of Africana Studies, the Master's Degree Program in Africana Studies was ranked number two in the U.S. three years in a row (2005, 2006, and 2007). He is past director of the humanistic studies doctoral program and the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at UAlbany.
"UAlbany has a great community of scholars," said Slade. "I am honored to be a faculty member at such an outstanding institution of higher learning.”
His next book of poetry, Sweet Solitude, will be published in July by SUNY Press.
"In the words of Edgar Allan Poe, 'Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty whose purpose is to elevate the soul,' " said Slade. "My aim is to write poetry which brings beauty, peace, love, joy, and harmony to a troubled world. Yes, I hope that my modest works elevate the soul."
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