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Hettie Jones

Born Hettie Cohen in Brooklyn, New York, in 1934, Hettie Jones attended Mary Washington College before going on to earn a BA in Drama from the University of Virginia and pursue postgraduate work at Columbia University.

Her first collection of poems, Drive (Hanging Loose Press, 1997), was selected by Naomi Shihab Nye to receive the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is also the author of How I Became Hettie Jones (1990), a memoir of the beat scene of the fifties and sixties, as well as of her marriage (1958-1966) to LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka; Big Star Fallin' Mama: Five Women in Black Music (1974); and several books for children.

With LeRoi Jones she established Yugen (1957-1963), a magazine that published poetry and writings by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Philip Whalen, and others. She also launched Totem Press, which published poets such as Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Frank O'Hara, Edward Dorn, and Gary Snyder.

She is currently involved with PEN American Center's Prison Writing committee and runs a writing workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women at Bedford Hills. Hettie Jones lives in New York City, where she writes and teaches at The New School.

By This Poet



My folder of poems
labeled "weather" holds 
no clues as to whether
or not there’ll be any 

weather to count on, say, 
a hard rain like "little nails," or
that deluge "plunging radiant"

now that we’ve plunged into war
and wars don’t stop like rain stops

like that last slow drizzle
onto the old tin bathroom vent

sweet hint of growth
in the soft wet drift north

fire or ice, fire or ice

are you breathing, are you lucky enough
to be breathing