Ishmael Reed

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Ishmael Reed
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Biography

Ishmael Scott Reed (born February 22, 1938) is an American poet, essayist, playwright and novelist. Reed is known for his satirical works challenging American political culture, and highlighting political and cultural oppression.

Reed's work has often sought to represent neglected African and African-American perspectives, his energy and advocacy have centered more broadly on neglected peoples and perspectives, irrespective of their cultural origins.

Reed was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but grew up in Buffalo, New York, where he attended the University of Buffalo, a private university that became part of the state public university system after he left. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1995.

In 1998, Reed spoke about his influences in an interview: "I've probably been more influenced by poets than by novelists — the Harlem Renaissance poets, the Beat poets, the American surrealist Ted Joans. Poets have to be more attuned to originality, coming up with lines and associations the ordinary prose writer wouldn't think of."

He moved to New York City in 1962 and co-founded with the late Walter Bowart the East Village Other, a well-known underground publication. He was also a member of the Umbra Writers Workshop, an organization among whose members were some that helped establish the Black Arts Movement and promoted a Black Aesthetic, although Ishmael Reed was never a participant in that movement.

In 2005, Reed retired from teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught for thirty-five years. He currently lives in Oakland, California, with his wife of more than 40 years, Carla Blank, the acclaimed author, choreographer, and director. His archives are located in Special Collections at the University of Delaware in Newark. Ishmael Reed made an appearance as a plenary speaker at the 2008 &NOW Festival, which took place at Chapman University. Reed's blog appears at www.sfgate.com.
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