Kolin's latest book of poems captures spirit of Emmett Till - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Kolin's latest book of poems captures spirit of Emmett Till

Photo from The University of Southern Mississippi Photo from The University of Southern Mississippi
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

This is a news release from the University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. Philip C. Kolin, Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at The University of Southern Mississippi, has published a new  book of 50 poems entitled Emmett Till in Different States, commemorating the 60th  anniversary of Till's savage murder that ignited the Civil Rights Movement.

Kolin’s poems were published by Third World Press in Chicago, the oldest and largest independent publisher of black thought and literature in the U.S. Other Third World authors include Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez, Baraka, and Marc Lamont Hill. Emmett Till in Different States is available through Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0883783606.   

 A Chicago teen visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955, Till was tortured because he whistled at a white woman and his murderers were acquitted by an all-white jury. His mother Mamie made history by showing the world her son's mangled body in an open casket at the funeral.

Kolin's poems span nearly seven decades in Till's life and legacy, focusing on his death and its aftermath. But Kolin also portrays Till as evolving from a Civil Rights martyr to a heroic commentator on the murders of Dr. King, Medgar Evers, Virgil Ware, and Trayvon Martin, the horrors awaiting the Freedom Riders, the injustices faced by black soldiers in Vietnam, and Chicago's gangland slaughtered children.

Kolin has garnered strong praise for his Till poems. Natasha Trethewey, former U.S. Poet Laureate, called Emmett Till in Different States a "necessary retelling so that we might all be transformed by the listening." And Devery Anderson, a leading Civil Rights historian, found Kolin's poetry "deeply moving, powerfully haunting...a valuable addition to Till literature." And Faedra Carpenter, an eminent theatre scholar at the University of Maryland, declared that “Kolin's poetry is revelatory and ... as visceral as it is elegant."

Jerry W. Ward, the Distinguished Professor of Global African Culture at Dillard University in New Orleans, honored Kolin by saying his poems "follow in the tradition of Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, and Wanda Coleman."

"My poems emerge from a variety of traditions, including Civil Rights protests, Gospel/spirituals, blues and jazz, classical mythology, and confessional elegiac verse," Kolin said.

Another notable feature of Kolin's poems is that he weaves different voices throughout them, including Emmett and Mamie Till, Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, Aunt Aretha, a former slave, Till's fictionalized murdered brothers, Carolyn Bryant, the white woman who falsely accused him, President Eisenhower, and even the Chicago River that leads a jazz funeral.

Widely acclaimed blues poet and University of Illinois, Chicago Professor Emeritus Sterling Plumpp praised Kolin for his "superb poetic artistry in inventing personas who speak in a character and tone that are believable and moving." 

Kolin, also regarded as a world authority on the works of Tennessee Williams, is the editor of The Southern Quarterly at USM. Learn more about Kolin and his work at http://www.usm.edu/english/faculty/philip-kolin. For information about The Southern Quarterly, visit http://sites.usm.edu/southern-quarterly-literary-magazine/.

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