Biography of Quincy Troupe
Quincy Thomas Troupe, Jr. is a poet, editor, journalist and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, California.
The son of Negro League baseball catcher Quincy Trouppe (who added a second "P" to the family name while playing in Mexico to accommodate the Spanish pronunciation "Trou-pay"), Troupe Jr. attended Grambling State University on a basketball scholarship. He failed to finish either of his first two semesters and subsequently joined the United States Army, where he was stationed in France and played on the Army basketball team. In France he encountered Jean-Paul Sartre, who recommended he try his hand at poetry.
Upon his return to civilian life, Troupe moved to Los Angeles, where he encountered the Watts Writers Workshop and began working in a more jazz-based style. It was on a tour with the Watts group that he first began his academic life.
In 1969, Troupe visited Ohio University with the poetry tour. He would soon be offered a position as writer-in-residence. In 1971, he moved to Richmond College on Staten Island in New York City, where he was a lecturer.
In 1976, Richmond College underwent a merger and became the College of Staten Island of the City University of New York. It was during this transition, Troupe later revealed, that he adjusted his curriculum vitae to include a (fictitious) bachelor's degree he claimed to have earned in 1963 from Grambling State University. He made the addition in order to possibly attain tenure, which he likely could not have done without an academic degree. The fiction went unchallenged for nearly three decades.
Over the next few years, Troupe became a celebrity in the academic world, winning an American Book Award for 1989's Miles, the Autobiography (written with Miles Davis) and earning numerous other accolades. In 1990, Troupe moved to the University of California, San Diego as a professor of literature, where he continued to gain acclaim, and became the founding editor of Code Magazine.
In early 2002, Troupe was named California's first Poet Laureate and took office on June 11, 2002. A background check related to the new position revealed that Troupe had, in fact, never possessed a degree from Grambling; he attended for only two semesters in 1957-58 and failed most of his classes. After admitting that he had not earned a degree, he claimed to have studied Political Science, but there is no evidence that he ever did so, and he earned no academic credits whatsoever from Grambling. He resigned from the Poet Laureate's position and retired from his post at UCSD rather than face an administrative review.
Other notable Troupe works include James Baldwin: The Legacy (1989) and Miles and Me: A Memoir of Miles Davis (2000). He also edited Giant Talk: An Anthology of Third World Writing (1975) and is a founding editor of Confrontation: A Journal of Third World Literature and American Rag. He taught creative writing for the Watts Writers’ Movement from 1966 to 1968 and served as director of the Malcolm X Center in Los Angeles during the summers of 1969 and 1970.
The year 2006 saw the publishing of his collaboration with self-made millionaire Chris Gardner on the latter's autobiography, The Pursuit of Happyness. The book served as the inspiration for a film of the same name later that year starring Will Smith.
Among his honors and awards are fellowships from the National Foundation for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.
Today, Troupe lives with his wife, Margaret, in Harlem, New York City, where he edits NYU's Black Renaissance Noire and continues to write.
Quincy Troupe Poems
Snow & Ice
Ice sheets sweep this slick mirrored dark place space as keys that turn in tight, trigger pain of situations where we move ever so slowly
The Day Duke Raised: May 24th, 1974
For Duke Ellington that day began with a shower of darkness, calling lightning rains
Poem Reaching For Something
we walk through a calligraphy of hats slicing off foreheads ace-deuce cocked, they slant, razor sharp, clean through imagination, our spirits knee-deep in what we have forgotten entrancing our bodies now to dance, like enraptured water lilies the rhythm in liquid strides of certain looks eyeballs rippling through breezes riffing choirs of trees, where a trillion slivers of sunlight prance across filigreeing leaves, a zillion voices of bamboo reeds, green with summer saxophone bursts, wrap themselves, like transparent prisms of dew drops around images, laced with pearls & rhinestones, dreams & perhaps it is through this decoding of syllables that we learn speech that sonorous river of broken mirrors carrying our dreams assaulted by pellets of raindrops, prisons of words entrapping us between parentheses â€" two bat wings curving cynical smiles still, there is something here, that, perhaps, needs explaining beyond the hopelessness of miles, the light at the end of a midnight tunnel â€" where some say a speeding train is bulleting right at us â€"â€" so where do the tumbling words spend themselves after they have spent all meaning residing in the warehouse of language, after they have slipped from our lips, like skiers on ice slopes, strung together words linking themselves through smoke, where do the symbols they carry stop everything, put down roots, cleanse themselves of everything but clarity â€"â€" though here eye might be asking a little too much of any poet's head, full as it were with double-entendres
in brussels, eye sat in the grand place cafe & heard duke's place, played after salsa between the old majestic architecture, jazz bouncing off all that gilded gold history snoring complacently there flowers all over the ground, up inside the sound the old white band jammin the music tight & heavy, like some food pushin pedal to the metal gettin all the way down under the scaffolding surrounding l'hotel de ville, chattanooga choochoo choo choing all the way home, upside walls, under gold eagles & a gold vaulting girl, naked on a rooftop holding a flag over her head, like skip rope, surrounded by all manner of saints & gold madmen, riding emblazoned stallions snorting like crazed demons at their nostrils the music swirling like a dancing bear a beautiful girl, flowers in her hair the air woven with lilting voices in this grand place of parepets & crowns, jewels & golden torches streaming like a horse's mane, antiquity riding through in a wheel carriage here, through gargoyles & gothic towers rocketing swordfish lanced crosses pointing up at a God threatening rain & it is stunning at this moment when raised beer steins cheer the music on, hot & heavy, still humming & cooking basic african-american rhythms alive here in this ancient grand place of europe this confluence point of nations & cultures jumping off place for beer & cuisines fused with music, poetry & stone here in this blinding, beautiful square sunlit now as the golden eye of God shoots through flowers all over the cobbled ground, up in the music the air brightly cool as light after jeweled rain still, there are these hats slicing foreheads off in the middle of crowds that need explaining, the calligraphy of this penumbra slanting ace-deuce, cocked, carrying the perforated legacy of bebop these bold, peccadillo, pirouetting pellagras razor-sharp clean, they cut into our rip-tiding dreams carrying their whirlpooling imaginations, their rivers of schemes assaulted by pellets of raindrops these broken mirrors catching fragments of sonorous words, entrapping us between parentheses two bat wings curved, imprisoning the world
—for Edouard Glissant I. the mind wanders as a line of poetry taking flight meanders in the way birds spreading wings lift into space knowing skies are full of surprises like errançities encountering restless journeys as in the edgy solos of miles davis or jimi hendrix listen to night-song of sea waves crashing in foaming with voices carrying liquid histories splashing there on rock or sandy shores after traveling across time space & distance it resembles a keening language of music heard at the tip of a sharp blade of steel cutting through air singing as it slices a head clean from its neck & you watch it drop heavy as a rock landing on earth & rolling like a bowling ball the head leaving a snaking trail of blood reminding our brains of errançities wandering through our lives every day as metaphors for restless movement bring sudden change surprise in the way you hear errançities of double meaning layered in music springing from secret memories as echoes resounding through sea & blue space is what our ears know & remember hearing voices speaking in tongues carrying history blooming as iridescent colors of flowers multifarious as rainbows arching across skies multilingual as joy or sorrow evoked inside our own lives when poetic errançities know their own forms 2. what is history but constant recitations of flawed people pushed over edges of boundaries of morality pursuing wars pillage enslavement of spirits is what most nations do posing as governing throughout cycles of world imagination plunder means profit everywhere religion is practiced on topography as weapons used as tools written in typography to conquer minds to slaughter for gold where entire civilizations become flotsam floating across memory seas heirloom trees cut down as men loot the planet without remorse their minds absent of empathy they remember/know only greed these nomadic avatars of gizzard-hearted darth vaders who celebrate "shock-doctrines" everywhere ballooning earnings-sheet bottom lines their only creed for being on earth until death cuts them down 3. but poetry still lives somewhere in airstreams evoking creative breath lives in the restless sea speaking a miscegenation of musical tongues lives within the holy miracle of birds elevating flight into dreams & song as errançities of spirits create holy inside accumulation of daybreaks raise everyday miraculous voices collaborating underneath star-nailed clear black skies & the milky eye of a full moon over guadeloupe listen to the mélange of tongues compelling in nature's lungs in new york city tongues flung out as invitations for sharing wondrous songs which nature is a summons to recognize improvisation as a surprising path to divergence through the sound of scolopendra rooted somewhere here in wonder when humans explode rhythms inside thickets of words/puns celebrating the human spirit of imagination is what poets seek listen for cries of birds lifting off for somewhere above the magical pulse of sea waves swirling language immense with the winds sound serenading us through leaves full of ripe fruit sweet as fresh water knowing love might be deeper than greed & is itself a memory a miracle always there might bring us closer to reconciliation inside restless métisse commingling voices of errançities wandering within magic the mystery of creation pulling us forward to wonder to know human possibility is always a miraculous gift is always a conundrum
The Hours Fly Quick
the hours fly quick on wings of clipped winds like nonsense blown from mouths of hot air— people—including my own—form syllables, suds, words shot through pursed lips like greased sleaze & bloom inside all these rooms dominated by television's babble sluicing idiot images invented in modern test tubes— clones—blinking, slathering all over controlled airwaves of an up-for-sale world, blinking a paucity of spirit, so dance you leering ventriloquists, marionettes, you greedy counterfeits, dance, dance, dance
Poem for My Father
father, it was an honor to be there, in the dugout with you, the glory of great black men swinging their lives as bats, at tiny white balls burning in at unbelievable speeds, riding up & in & out
Poem for My Father
for Quincy T. Trouppe Sr.
father, it was an honor to be there, in the dugout
with you, the glory of great black men swinging their lives
as bats, at tiny white balls
burning in at unbelievable speeds, riding up & in & out
a curve breaking down wicked, like a ball falling off a table
moving away, snaking down, screwing its stitched magic