One of America’s most significant literary figures, Ishmael Reed has published over 30 books of poetry, prose, essays, and plays, as well as penned hundreds of lyrics for musicians ranging from Taj Mahal to Macy Gray. His work is known for its satirical, ironic take on race and literary tradition, as well as its innovative, post-modern technique.
Reed’s books of poetry include Conjure (1972), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and nominated for the National Book Award, Chattanooga (1973), A Secretary to the Spirits (1978), New and Collected Poems (1988), and New and Collected Poems 1964-2007, which was named one of the best books of poetry of the year by the New York Times, and won the California Gold Medal in Poetry, awarded by the Commonwealth Club. His more recent poetry collection is Why the Black Hole Sings the Blues, Poems 2007-2020. Reed’s poems have been published in other forms as well. His work has been featured as part of poetry walks in Berkeley, California and Richmond, New York; it also appears as an installation in a BART station in Richmond, California.
Reed’s many novels include the critically acclaimed Mumbo Jumbo (1972), The Terrible Twos (1982), Japanese by Spring (1993), Juice! (2011), Conjugating Hindi (2018), and The Terrible Fours (2021). Recent essay collections include The Complete Muhammad Ali (2015), Going Too Far: Essays About America’s Nervous Breakdown (2012), Barack Obama and The Jim Crow Media, Or The Return of the ‘Nigger Breakers’ (2010) and Mixing It Up: Taking On The Media Bullies & Other Reflections (2008). Ishmael Reed: The Plays collected Reed’s six plays and was published in 2003. Reed has also edited numerous anthologies, most recently among them Black Hollywood Unchained: Commentary on the State of Black Hollywood (2015) Powwow, Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience: Short Fiction From Then to Now (2008), which he co-edited with his wife Carla Blank. He edits the online literary magazine Konch and blogs for the San Francisco Chronicle.