James Emanuel (1921 to present) is a poet and scholar from Nebraska. Emanuel, who is ranked by some critics as one of the best living poets, has published more than 300 poems, 13 individual books, an influential anthology of African American literature, an autobiography, and more. He is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku, often read with musical accompaniment.
Born in Nebraska in 1921, Emanuel was raised in the state. He spent his early years in the western United States where he worked at a variety of jobs. At age twenty he joined the United States Army and served as confidential secretary to the Assistant Inspector General of the U.S. Army Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. After his discharge, he did his undergraduate work at Howard University and obtained graduate degrees from Northwestern University (M.A.) and Columbia University (Ph.D.). He then moved to New York city where he taught at the City College of New York (CUNY), where he is credited with introducing the study of African-American poetry. Emanuel also worked as editor, with his first editorial project being the publication of a collection of poetry by Langston Hughes, whom Emanuel considered his mentor.
Emanuel has also taught at the University of Toulouse (as a Fulbright scholar in 1968-1969), at the University of Grenoble, and at the University of Warsaw. He currently lives in Paris, France.
Emanuel is a published poet, scholar, and critic. As a poet, Emanuel has published more than 300 poems and 13 individual books. Emanuel has been called one of the best, and most overlooked, poets of his time. Critics have put forward several reasons for Emanuel's poetry being neglected by the larger literary world, including the fact that Emanuel writes more traditional poetic forms, that he no longer lives in the United States, and the fact that he refuses to take part in the politically correct world of Black academia.
Emanuel is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku, which he has read to musical accompaniment throughout Europe and Africa. For this creation he was awarded the Sidney Bechet Creative Award in 1996.
Emanuel's latest book of poetry, Jazz from the Haiku King, was published in 1999.
Criticism and letters
In addition to his poetry, Emanuel also edited (with Theodore Gross) the influential anthology of African American literature Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America. The anthology, published in 1968 by Free Press, was one of the first major collections of African American writings. This anthology, and Emanuel's work as an educator, heavily influenced the birth of the African American literature genre.
In 2000 a collection of Emanuel letters and writings were placed in the United States Library of Congress. Included in the letters were correspondence with Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Benjamin O. Davis, Ossie Davis, W. E. B. DuBois, and many others.
Emanuel has also edited five Broadside Critics books (1971-1975) and written a number of critical essays. His other published works include an autobiography.