New York State Writers Institute
Department of Africana Studies

Honoree Jeffers
Honorée Jeffers
February 16, 2006
(Thursday)

4:15 p.m. Informal Seminar
8:00 p.m. Reading
Assembly Hall, Campus Center

UAlbany, Uptown Campus

Outlandish Blues

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers burst onto the American poetry scene with her first collection, "The Gospel of Barbecue" (2000), a vivid evocation of Southern Black folk culture and cuisine. Eminent poet Lucille Clifton selected the book for the Wick Poetry Prize in 1999, and said,

"These poems are sweet and sassy, hot and biting, flavored in an exciting blend of precise language and sharp and surprising imagery that delights…. They are gospel, indeed, and this young poet will be heard more and more spreading the true word. Good news!"

In her second collection, "Outlandish Blues" (2003), Jeffers imagines herself into the voices of such blues giants as Billie Holiday, James Brown, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, and John Coltrane; and various biblical women, including Sarah, Hagar, and Lot's wife; as well as archetypal figures from African American history, including a man about to be lynched, and a former slave attending college.

"I am struck by the boldness of this poetry, the musicality, and the sense of historical and spiritual matters. This is a powerful new voice." - Poet Cynthia Hogue

"There is spit, semen, and sweat in this book from a woman not shy about joining up with… great voices in black culture. Honorée Jeffers cuts a large swath to work with, and is equal to the task…." - "Montserrat Review"

Jeffers is currently working on a third book of poetry, "Red Clay Suite," an exploration of her family origins: the dark-skinned Georgia sharecroppers of her mother's family, and the light-skinned, educated bourgeoisie of her father's. She also addresses the complex and painful relationship she had with her late father, noted Black Arts Movement poet and blues pianist Lance Jeffers, who sexually abused her.

In 2002, Jeffers received the Julia Peterkin Award for Poetry. Her poetry has been published in the anthologies "At Our Core: Women Writing About Power," "Dark Eros," and "Identity Lessons." Her work has also appeared in "Callaloo," "The Kenyon Review," and "Prairie Schooner." She currently teaches English at the University of Oklahoma and is completing her first book of collected fiction.