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Quincy Troupe photo: Rohan Preston

Quincy Troupe


Quincy Troupe is the author of 20 books, including 10 volumes of poetry and three children’s books. His awards include the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement, the Milt Kessler Poetry Award, three American Book Awards, the 2014 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award and a 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from Furious Flower. His writings have been translated into over 30 languages. Troupe’s latest book of poems is Errançities (2012). Forthcoming two new books of poems, Seduction and a book length poem entitled, Ghost voices, to be published in late Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press. He is also writing a novel, The Legacy of Charlie Footman; a memoir, The Accordion Years; and an untitled book of non-fiction prose. Mr. Troupe is co-author with Miles Davis of Miles: the Autobiography; Earl the Pearl with Earl Monroe; The Pursuit of Happyness, with Chris Gardner. He is the editor of James Baldwin: The legacy and co-editor (with Rainer Schulte) of Giant Talk; An Anthology of Third World Literature. Troupe is also the author of Miles and me, a memoir of his friendship with Miles Davis, Stories Press, and is scheduled to go into production in late 2018 as a major motion picture, for which Troupe wrote the screenplay. Quincy Troupe is Professor Emeritus from the University of California, San Diego. He edits Black Renaissance Noire a literary and culture journal published by the Institute of African American Affairs at New York University. He lives in Harlem (New York) with his wife, Margaret Porter Troupe.

To listen to Quincy Troupe read his poems, please click on the audio player that appears above each text. 

An Art of Lost Faith - Quincy Troupe

An Art of Lost Faith

for Robert Farris Thompson, Maya Deren & Ishmael Reed


Beginnings: A Place of Silence

in a place beyond our knowing, silence reigns, darkness

perhaps, some light, echoes, in this vast space,

perhaps it is a nether-world, an ether-world of maybe,

if spirits amongst us know what It is, they have never spoken,

perhaps shadows have, over/underground in some invisible space,

surrounded by air, water, where spirits of creation exist,

swimming or zooming outside our comprehension,

a place where only imagination through prayer can take us,

to a road, perhaps, a passageway stretching long & far,

deep into the past, perhaps, a doorway leading to nowhere,

nobody knows, only silence knows the language echoes speak

in this vast place beyond knowing, are bones, teeth, hair,

ribcages, skulls, toes, fingers here, are maggots here, too,

do they speak some kind of music in this beyond world,

do they understand silence, the twilight world of myth, memory

of water, earth, sky, wind, the memory of fire, earthquakes, thunder,

the memory of storms, lightning, ice, the memory of creation,

birth, death, the memory of everything here & gone, everywhere

a mystery, is what we know is certain, an idea of something

without shape or form, pulsating with what we know is power,

It is a metaphysical presence, a blessing with what we know

is the ability to heal & destroy this space we live in

only by Its invitation, sanction, only by Its blessing,

this place we’ve been born into with so much amnesia


Errançities Coffee House Press 2012

When Time Was Young - Quincy Troupe

When Time Was Young


in the beginning no one knew what the beginning was

what force act what mad genius pulled the trigger

shooting time into space was a commencement an inauguration

all of this was in fact true was an installation a swearing in drama

& time in the opening act was perhaps dressed up as a bird

was all in feathers & flew where nobody had a clue

though all unheard voices from then say it became

a silent language when anything open tried to breathe

attempting to speak a blue cloud whispered a pulse of hushed

utterance slipped out became a new-fangled mode of communication

only circling hawks understood the frequency of before time did

a boogie-woogie shuffled folded its wings dove back down

into the dazzling hole it flew out of in the first place as a breeze-

licked petal trembled as though it was an unmanned boat

floating on still waters of a lake somewhere under the sun


& it was bright before anyone knew the beginning of sound

was time light a short period measured by intervals

a second a slice a beat in the duration of speed & space

though some segments had no sense of rhythm were caught up in blind

spots gaps in the yah-de-yah-da power of crows who were colophons

fixed somewhere in memory perched high up in cerulean air

where some were seen blowing smoke signals through large beaks

like etchings of black men wearing headdresses of indian feathers

when this poem flashed forward to see

mardi gras flowing magical scenes through old new orleans streets

before katrina came sweeping everything away in loop de loops

of wind rain violent swirling water the stupidity of avaricious men

silencing for a while all that wondrous music african-indian tribes created

dancing strutting up a storm through heo-hoodoo beats of new orleans


then the storms of amnesia tore up the original roadmap

& we found ourselves navigating inside our own frazzled brains

now some of us find our spirits wandering around tasting cobalt

chemicals on our tongues sluicing through our minds

as time pulsed beats between two sapphire stones

at opposite ends of the world we bore witness before a black

swirling cloud dropped down howling from the yellow sky


it was the moment some of us finally knew the beginning of time

was the vanishing of light fleeing gloom of those days without heartbeats


& we never understood why we never heard the trembling whisper before

the howling raised at that precise moment of our terror why no one knew

the truth of light leaving was in fact the beginning of all

the silence of all the dark days that were poised to come

Errançities Coffee House Press 2012

First Take - Quincy Troupe

II. First Take

from my terrace in goyave, guadeloupe,

eye listen,

sea waves washing whispering lullabies

voices combing through sand,

licking with lapping finger tongues

over a script lost

and secret coded utterances sigh,


eye am hearing

wailing journeys crawling across time,

crawling on shore

here in guadeloupe,

                                             this volcanic butterfly island


from the dark howling bottom

where translucent spirits

cover their black holes for eyes

diffuse their hands,

speak through silence,


what they saw blew out

the lights of their sights

                                             400 years back

listen now

hear them speak

lost rhythms

scripted in the skins of talking drums,

hear them speak,

hear the wailing,

catterwalling language spoken

through pulsating glissandos


eye hear them

throbbing, calling in my dreams


you hear them calling

you hear them too,

with their catterwalling voices

speaking directly in our chambers

speaking directly to you

Ghost voices, forthcoming Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press

Arrival of Ghost Voices - Quincy Troupe

III. Arrival of Ghost Voices


in the dead of night

ghost voices come,

surround me

in sleep


hold nothing

back from the cocked ears of slumber

sharp as the blade

paring sweetness

slicing through

the blush of a mango’s skin

what the palate and memory evoke,


those voices

with their severed tongues

castrated from FREEDOM

the passage of pitched voices

hoarse from the salt water


those voices wailing like glowing ghost-hyenas,

the skin in the translucent piranhas

still searching for flesh somewhere


my dreams are a fever


sacred chants and dancing priests,

the red-eyed witchdoctors

know secrets

know the underworld of death

they will serve this potion

Voodoo white flower

to the disbelievers

turn them into zombies


eye hear the arrival of those

raised holy voices hear them

riding backs of african ghost spirit crabs

they have arrived

here in my dreams,

eye am listening,

hearing their siren calls

eye am listening


prayer seduces in the night,

eye am listening, hearing your spirit

voices rising from the sea,

the wing of a beautiful butterfly

shaped like this island,

this place where ancestors are kept,


voices in whirlpools eddying

flowing on shores curled like lovers,

riffing in my heart, 


eye hear them

howling through the crossing

inside polished bones with their

wind and tongues beseeching


those who survived, 

in the new born america,

scaffolded from within


words from skin-wombs of talking drums

they came through the door of no return


the reaper took them down 

to swim inside battalions 

sweeping west,

just below the terrace

where eye am lost in dreaming


                                                      listen, listen closely now


the skin of the drums

fly on wings of tongues

washed ashore seeking redemption,

sulfur whispers, winding themselves

around faith like an octopus with gold tentacles

inside rivers of blood-fingers


like birds on the wind

there is a rhythm

there, where death even has a rhythm

when sharks guillotine the necks,

hear kinfolk screaming in saltwater


listen now to the catterwalling history

in the scaffolding litany of sacred voices,

beseeching sea waves of gospels,

listen to the voices swirling out of

these watery litanies foaming 

hear what they say, listen,

listen closely to what they say

Ghost voices, forthcoming Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press

Ghost Voices Whispering from the Near Past - Quincy Troupe

Ghost Voices Whispering from the Near Past


they call from the near past whispering.

seducing through ether, they call


fragmented, disembodied,  their meaning

climbing from silence,

shapes emerge transparent,

seek a form to enter

our bloody world, sluicing through space,


silhouettes looking like amoebas


they float into our vision blooming flowers,

voices whispering at the edge of our ears

Seduction, forthcoming Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press

Waves - Quincy Troupe



around the north shore of hilo, hawaii, ghost waves

rise up scary from the bottom floor of the pacific,


shaped like finger-tongues they snatch people sitting

unaware on cliffs, dreaming, kissing, living in the moment,


then drag them down screaming into foaming ghost waves,

drop their bodies into the raging deep blue water below


some are never seen again, though people still there living,

raise their voices in prayer, thread them through ether,


breathing words, sentences, construct a memory of these

lost faces survivors throw back & forth across dinner tables,


if the lost could speak of those waves now inside this poem,

how would they describe the terror suddenly upon them,

premonitions all of us think of but never expect to see

Seduction, forthcoming Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press 

Mercy - Quincy Troupe



mercy for broken wing birds

young or old, sitting alone

pathetic on frozen ground,

looking, longing to fly up,

sing in green trees, warm blue skies,


mercy for homeless people,

scavenging like hungry dogs

through garbage, sleeping on streets

in cold, remorseless cities,

 with no love in their future,


mercy for those killed in wars

for rich old men at death’s door,

their young wives wearing jewelry,

bemused looks on their faces,

waiting for money to drop,


mercy for cold assassins

killing for religion, gold,

dogma, beliefs of others

who walk around in shadows,

give orders to spineless men,


mercy for plants, animals,

fish in seas suffocating

because of the greed of men,

their willful blindness to death

piling up all around them,


mercy to sick predators

hunting young children, women

singled out for rape, murder,

who hate all without blue eyes,

people who don’t think like them,


mercy for those who refuse

to believe art is healing,

whether poetry, music,

dance, visual images,

the bonds of sweet human-hood,,


mercy for those who refuse

too know beauty is soothing

as love is pure energy,

beautiful beyond glory,

liberating hearts & souls,


when it – love – is alchemy,

a driving force fusing me

& you – our bodies as one

another, heat rising hot,

aretha’s echoing voice


is mercy, mercy, mercy

Seduction, forthcoming Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press

High Noon Shadow - Quincy Troupe

High Noon Shadow


eye looked in wonder as my shadow inked concrete

behind me, it softened, then hardened its black shape

as if it were an amoeba trailing my footsteps

through the hot summer day filled with gaggles of people

at high noon in manhattan, eye listened to a sprinkling

of voices ricocheting around, airing intentions

murderous as mamba snakes, they troubled me deep down

inside my secret dreams, where eye often feel isolated

as my shadow snaking behind me, wavering over concrete

Seduction, forthcoming Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press

A Dirge for Michael Brown, Tamir Rice & Trayvon Martin - Quincy Troupe

A Dirge for Michael Brown, Tamir Rice & Trayvon Martin


where does life-force of breath go after flesh falls away from bone,

does it rest in the womb of memory, raise up it’s spirit inside

ghost voices recognized once as bodies carrying names of michael,

tamir, trayvon, so many other young black boys & girls with bright eyes,

looking into a future of dreams before being cut down by spiting lead,

fired into their spirits carrying their names in ferguson, cleveland,

chicago, florida, where do their spirits go after breath leaves them

suddenly beyond hearing love from their mother’s  & father’s voices,

brothers & sisters too quaking grief, close friends,


do they hear music now, a trumpet lick sweet as a sad kiss,

wailing over piano keys tickling lyrical disbelief, rain falling

on days when mallet drum beats echo footsteps soft as memory

when a trumpet voice hauntingly pierces flights of mourning’s

gloomy light, bird wings slicing through sadness of the day,

bass strings echoing echos, beneath dark aching words of a poet’s voice

raising up names of so many robbed of futures by spitting bullets

stamped with their names, spitting bullets shrieking like hornets, stamped with their names,


where will all this death take us beyond tears, weeping music, poetry

moaning words of a st.louie woman, how long will memory remember this fear,

these lost names stamped on faces of paper posters

nailed to trees, walls in soiled rooms splattered with blood

inside mourning houses for years carrying memories of young black faces

with sweet smiles, eyes bright as suns staring into a future

once possible with dreams,  lost in an instant after death

fired from demons walking still amongst us now enter their brains,

how long will we keep these spirits warm with love inside our hearts,

before amnesia’s modern embrace obliterates time entombing

so many celebrated as martyrs now, yes, black lives do matter,

have always mattered here & now, each & every day,

every second, minute, every hour, yes, black lives do matter, alive


have always mattered, breathing, magical, beautiful, alive,

living does matter for those who know meaning lives here

when lungs take in breath, makes us whole, creative, does matter

when air is sweet beneath the sun, wondrous, magical as music, poetry,

yes, black lives do matter, all life matters every day light rises

with the sun, when we welcome the moon, shadows

wavering like wind-breath singing through leaves of trees swelling

with symphonies, voices, beautiful, powerful as choruses of blues

tonguing insinuation aching with puns, humor

drawn from black lives, inside songs, yes, black lives do matter

each day the sun blooms a trumpet voice within the coal skin of night,

where the moon shines in the eyes & mouth  of a black child smiling

every moment in a trumpet voice piercing as the sun & moon

rising , breathing inside lungs inhaling, exhaling, the miracle


that is life, rising, falling, like pitches of  music swelling with breath,

with beauty, black people breathing in the here & now every second,

every day, yes black lives do matter, living in a trumpet’s voice,

will always matter, singing in the air, will always matter

beautiful as we are,  will always matter, breathing in this life

will always matter, yes, always, always, always

Seduction, forthcoming Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press

Lyric Still Life - Quincy Troupe

Lyric Still Life; Once again for Margaret


love, hand me flower petals of your laughter

shimmering as a school of silver fish

swimming fast just beneath the clear surface

in an ice cold lake, somewhere deep in memory,

during the thaw of springtime, early morning

rinse, where no waves moved across the surface

but the silent air hung inside a misting veil

full of fragile dewdrops, just before the sun rises

splendid over the rims of mountain tops

fencing in the lake, trees sprouting in the east,

your face appeared wondrous as a sunrise

in the image of a photo above your name

Seduction, forthcoming Fall 2018 by Tri-Quarterly Northwestern University Press

Additional Titles By Quincy Troupe

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