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Quraysh Ali Lansana


Quraysh Ali Lansana was born September 13, 1964, in the town of Enid, Oklahoma, and received his MFA in creative writing at New York University.

Lansana is the author of mystic turf (Willow Books, 2012); They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems (Third World Press, 2004); Southside Rain (Third World Press, 2000); and the children’s book The Big World (Addison-Wesley, 1999), as well as four poetry chapbooks. He coauthored, with Christopher Stewart, the book The Walmart Republic (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014), and has coedited a number of anthologies, most recently The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop (Haymarket Books, 2015).

In his work, Lansana travels back to his origins in the southwestern United States and takes a look at the politics, contradictions, injustices, and inequalities—in race, ethnicity, and social status—present in what he refers to as “The Walmart Republic.”

In his review of mystic turf, Major Jackson says, “In these poems that lyrically insinuate in brief yet lasting notes, Quraysh Ali Lansana tags the nervous streets, American foothills, domestic rooms, and memories that constitute our bluesy soul, and asks, ‘Why can’t we speak the grace we all avoid?’ We’ve no slipperiness here, just the solid walkings and meditations of a man poised in his life to speak the grace he’s earned and to speak his journey with enormous dignity and artfulness.”

The recipient of the 1999 Henry Blakely Award and the Chicago Black Book Fair’s 2000 Poet of the Year Award, Lansana is the former director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University, where he was also taught English and creative writing. He is currently a faculty member of the creative writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth MFA creative writing program. He lives in Chicago.

Selected Bibliography

The Walmart Republic, with Christopher Stewart (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014)
mystic turf (Willow Books, 2012)
They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems (Third World Press, 2004)
Southside Rain (Third World Press, 2000)
The Big World (Addison-Wesley, 1999)

Quraysh Ali Lansana
Photo credit: Glodean Champion Photography

By This Poet


bible belted: history

okie white men

are a curious herd

never sure if cowboy

or cracker  skin coated

in dust from 1830 or 1921 

hard to tell  they grow

whiter with age

bible belted: math

Pro-Black doesn’t mean anti-anything.

            El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)


there are at least twenty-seven
white people i love. i counted.

four from high school, five from
undergraduate years, maybe

three from grad school
(one gay=bonus points) &

an assortment of compelling
melanin-deprived miscreants

in chicago & countrywide.
two brothas in the afterlife

remain why i add rather than

klan march

perhaps in a sincere gesture of protest
the managing editor decided it best
i welcome the grand imperial wizard
to channel nine, guide him back to
the senior producer’s glass cube
where he would proceed to engage
in heated words with the general
manager, whose robe hung upstairs
on the executive suite door. neither
of us offered our hands. staffers gathered
around me at the desk for a better view
of the meeting, questioned the cause
for vein pop and venom bleed
through office walls, summer sun
redefining our faces.

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