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Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry

Hemphill, Essex

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ISBN 10: 1573441015 / ISBN 13: 9781573441018
Published by Cleis Press, 2000
New Condition: New Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry

Publisher: Cleis Press

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:New

About this title


Ceremonies offers provocative commentary on highly charged topics such as Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of African-American men, feminism among men, and AIDS in the black community.

From the Publisher:

Cleis Press proudly announces Ceremonies, a new edition of the landmark collection of verse and commentary by one of the most provocative African American gay authors since James Baldwin. Winner of the 1993 American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Book Award, Ceremonies tackles cultural controversy with remarkable force and clarity. Whether he is addressing love between men, AIDS in the African American community, racism among white gay artists, coming home or coming out, Hemphill's insights give voice to a generation of men silenced by fears of reprisal and rejection.

Born in Chicago in 1957, Essex Hemphill was raised in Washington, D.C. before settling in Philadelphia as a poet, writer, and activist. His earliest work appeared in Earth Life (1985) and Conditions (1986), however, it was Joseph Beam's groundbreaking anthology of gay African American writing, In the Life (1986), that launched Hemphill into the literary world.

Following Beam's AIDS-related death in 1988, Hemphill assumed editorial responsibilities of the planned sequel, Brother to Brother, which later won a Lambda Literary Award in 1991. Hemphill's own collection of writings--many of them addressing controversial topics such as the sexual objectification of black gay men, homosexuality in the African American community, and intergenerational sex-- appeared the next year under the title Ceremonies, winner of the 1993 American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Book Award.

Hemphill reached perhaps his widest audience through film. Beginning in 1985 with the Marlon Riggs documentary Tongues Untied, Hemphill and his work appeared in a series of movies, including Looking for Langston (1989) and Black Is/Black Ain't (1995). Commenting on Hemphill's impact on the cultural movement among African American gay men of the 1980s, Riggs remarked, "No voice speaks with more eloquent, thought-provoking clarity about contemporary Black gay life than that of Essex Hemphill."

Yet his work also speaks to women across lines of sexual orientation. In his introduction to the Cleis Press edition of Ceremonies, critic Charles I. Nero writes, "I am reminded just how much Hemphill was indebted to politicized black women when I hear in his work echoes of Ntozake Shange, Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, and bell hooks." Indeed, these feminist influences resonate in poems such as "To Some Supposed Brothers", in which Hemphill writes, "We so-called men, we so-called brothers wonder why it's so hard to love our women when we're about loving them the way America loves us."

Hemphill's work additionally appears in Gay & Lesbian Poetry in Our Time, The Road Before Us, and Erotique Noire/Black Erotica, as well as having been published in The Advocate, Essence, Callaloo, and The James White Review among others. He died of complications related to HIV/AIDS in 1995.

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