Olio: Book summary and reviews of Olio by Tyehimba Jess

Olio

by Tyehimba Jess

Olio by Tyehimba Jess X
Olio by Tyehimba Jess
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About this book

Book Summary

"A distinctive work that melds performance art with the deeper art of poetry to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity." - Pulitzer Prize committee.

Part fact, part fiction, Tyehimba Jess's much anticipated second book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstrelize them.

So, while I lead this choir, I still find that
I'm being led…I'm a missionary
mending my faith in the midst of this flock…
I toil in their fields of praise. When folks see
these freedmen stand and sing, they hear their God
speak in tongues. These nine dark mouths sing shelter;
they echo a hymn's haven from slavery's weather.

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Book Awards

  • award image Pulitzer Prize Winners, 2017

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Encyclopedic, ingenious, and abundant, this outsized second volume from Jess celebrates the works and lives of African-American musicians, artists, and orators who predated the Harlem Renaissance." - Publishers Weekly

"This daring collection, which blends forthright, musically acute language with portraiture (e.g., poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Scott Joplin, and Booker T. Washington) to capture the African American experience from the Civil War to World War I. An impressive follow-up to leadbelly." - Library Journal

"It's been a decade since Tyehimba Jess's debut, and this sprawling, extraordinary book shows he's used his time well." - NPR

"This 21st century hymnal of black evolutionary poetry, this almanac, this theatrical melange of miraculous meta-memory. Tyehimba Jess is inventive, prophetic, wondrous. He writes unflinchingly into the historical clefs of blackface, black sound, human sensibility. After the last poem is read we have no idea how long we've been on our knees." - Nikky Finney

This information about Olio was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Tyehimba Jess

Tyehimba Jess' first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Jess, a Cave Canem and NYU Alumni, has received fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Arts Council, and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. Jess is also a veteran of the 2000 and 2001 Green Mill Poetry Slam Team. He exhibited his poetry at the 2011 TEDxNashville Conference. Jess is an Associate Professor of English at College of Staten Island, and is a native of Detriot.

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