May 6, 2012
One of the many things that set humans apart from all other animals is our creativity. Throughout history, mankind has expressed their creative prowess through poetry, music, literature, and art work; and several artists, a combination of the four. Quincy Troupe, an author of eight volumes of poetry, and nine non-fiction and children’s books, combines his affection for writing, jazz, politics, and art on a daily basis. Such broad passions are apparent in his poetry, frequently comparing literary and punctuation terms to the subject, incorporating musical elements, his love for travel, and pride for his African American heritage.
Quincy Thomas Troupe Jr. was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, 1939, to a Negro League baseball catcher, Quincy Trouppe. Like his father, Troupe was an avid baseball player growing up, even earning a substantial scholarship to Grambling State University in NYC (The Academy of American Poets). After failing out of the majority of his classes in the first two semesters, Troupe joined the army, and was stationed in France. There, he played basketball on the Army team, and more importantly for his future, became acquainted with Jean-Paul Sartre (Online School of Poetry). The influential French existentialist sparked Troupe’s interest in literature, and suggested Troupe pursue poetry. Taking this advice, upon his return to the states in 1969, Troupe moved to Los Angeles, and joined the Watts Writers Workshop; as a teacher, developing his signature jazz-based poetry as he entered the academic field (Troupe). While in LA, Troupe began his political activism, serving as the director of the Malcolm X Center, marking the beginning of his focus on African American History. He lectured at many different colleges, including Ohio University, Richmond College, University of California: San Diego, and Columbia; most of which would have not been possible without the most scandalous act of his career. During his time at Richmond College, the school merged into the College of Staten Island in 1976, which Troupe took advantage of, changing his resume to include a falsified Bachelor’s Degree from Grambling. This went unquestioned for thirty years. Soon after, Troupe co-wrote his first book, Miles, the Autobiography, on Miles Davis, winning the American Book Award, his first of many award winning biographies on influential African Americans in American History, including Ray Charles, James Baldwin, Stevie Wonder, and Chris Gardner (titled The Pursuit of Happiness, a best seller book and movie). In 2002, he was named California’s first Poet Laureate; however, before securing the position, he was required to undergo a background check, revealing that Troupe had counterfeited his degree. This discovery prompted him to resign from the Poet Laureate, and retire from UCSD (Turegano). Since then, he has moved back to New York, and is now focusing on writing more poetry and children’s books, and edits NYU’s Black Renaissance Noire (Troupe).
The prevalence of the African American arts community in Quincy Troupe’s life is shown in the many collaborative biographies he has written, as well as partner art projects like “At The End”, which is the accompanying poem to his friend Mildred Howard’s glass exhibition “Parenthetically Speaking: It’s Only a Figure of Speech”, where “both the poem and the exhibition reference punctuation as a metaphor for the passage of time” (Newsom). In “At The End”, Troupe uses structure and a lack of punctuation to enhance the meaning of his poem, what happens when time goes on. The first stanza views time as scientific, with no emotional meaning attached to its existence, “at the end/ of every sentence/ a period/ occupying space/ as molecular energy.” (1-5) And while talking about punctuation, he lets the words speak more loudly by using none, letting the audience add their own. The second stanza drifts in another direction, that in time, “the end is/ the...