The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop

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Quraysh Ali Lansana, Tony Medina, and Safia Elhillo

The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop

(Haymarket Books, 2015)

 Monday, February 8, 6:30 – 7:30 pm

Arellano Theater, Levering Hall

Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus

Baltimore, MD

Sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University

Sponsored and hosted by the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University, join poets Quraysh Ali Lansana, Tony Medina, and Safia Elhillo and DJ Daniel Kisslinger for an interactive performance and reading from THE BREAKBEAT POETS, discussing the anthology’s genesis, impact, and the role of BreakBeat poetics in contemporary literature.


Hip-Hop is the largest youth culture in the history of the planet rock. It has produced generations of artists who have revolutionized their genre(s) by applying the aesthetic innovations of the culture. THE BREAKBEAT POETS features 78 poets, born somewhere between 1961-1999, All-City and Coast-to-Coast, who are creating the next and now movement(s) in American letters. This is the first poetry anthology by and for the Hip-Hop generation. It is for people who love Hip-Hop, for fans of the culture, for people who’ve never read a poem, for people who thought poems were only something done by dead white dudes who got lost in a forest, and for poetry heads. This anthology is meant to expand the idea of who a poet is and what a poem is for.


Quraysh Ali Lansana is the author of the poetry collections mystic turf, They Shall Run: Harriet Tubman Poems, and Southside Rain; his chapbooks include reluctant minivan, bloodsoil (sooner red), Greatest Hits: 1995-2005, and cockroach children: corner poems and street psalms, and other works. Recent books include The Walmart Republic, with Christopher Stewart and The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop. He has been a literary teaching artist and curriculum developer for over a decade and has led workshops in prisons, public schools, and universities in over 30 states. He is a former faculty member of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School, and served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University from 2002-2011, where he was also Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing. Currently, Lansana is on faculty in the Creative Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and the Red Earth MFA Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma City University.

Safia Elhillo is Sudanese by way of Washington, DC. A Cave Canem fellow and poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly, she received an MFA in poetry from the New School. Safia is co-winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize. Her work appears in several publications, in the anthologies The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Again I Wait for This to Pull Apart. She has shared her work at venues such as the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, the Kennedy Center, the South African State Theatre, and TEDxNewYork.

Tony Medina, two-time winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, is the author/editor of eighteen books for adults and young readers, the most recent of which are I and I, Bob Marley (2009), My Old Man Was Always on the Lam (2010), finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize Broke on Ice (2011), An Onion of Wars (2012), The President Looks Like Me & Other Poems (2013) and Broke Baroque (2013), finalist for the Julie Suk Book Award. He has received the Langston Hughes Society Award; the first African Voices Literary Award; and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his poem, “Broke Baroque”. Medina is a Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University.

Copies of the anthology will be for sale at the event, courtesy of The Ivy Bookshop.

Thanks to Writers in Baltimore Schools and the JHU Center for Social Concern for collaborating on a BreakBeat Poets workshop with Baltimore City high school students and JHU undergraduates in The JHU Writing Seminars course “Poetry and Social Justice” before the public performance, and thanks to the PEN/Faulker Foundation for providing free copies of the anthology to the Baltimore City high school students attending the workshop.