Clarence Major

Poet, novelist, and painter Clarence Major was born in 1936 in Atlanta, Georgia. He received a BS from the State University of New York and a PhD from the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities.

Major’s recent books of poetry include Down and Up (University of Georgia Press, 2013); Myself Painting (Louisiana State University Press, 2008); Waiting for Sweet Betty (Copper Canyon Press, 2002); Configurations: New & Selected Poems 1958–1998 (Copper Canyon Press, 1999); Some Observations of a Stranger at Zuni in the Latter Part of the Century (Sun & Moon Press, 1998); and Parking Lots (Perishable Press, 1992).

In response to Down and Up, poet Yusef Komunyakaa noted,

Clarence Major has written a collection of poetry that celebrates being human. Small moments expand into treatises of love and doubt, life and art, and it all seems so natural. Here’s a poet who has mastered a language he owns through personal rhythm, and he knows what it takes to transcend.

Major is also the author of more than eight novels including One Flesh (Kensington, 2013) and Dirty Bird Blues: A Novel (Mercury House, 1996). He has also edited many anthologies, such as The Garden Thrives: Twentieth-Century African-American Poetry (HarperCollins, 1995); Dictionary of Afro-American Slang (Internal Publications, 1994); and The Dark and Feeling: Black American Writers and Their Work (Third Press, 1974).

Major’s many honors and awards include a Western States Book Award for Fiction, a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a National Council on the Arts Fellowship.

Major was a professor at twelve different universities before he was a professor of English and creative writing for eighteen years at the University of California, Davis. He retired in 2007.