James A. Emanuel was born June 15, 1921, in Alliance, Nebraska. He earned a B.A. from Howard University, an M.A. from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Among his books of poetry are Jazz from the Haiku King (1999), De la rage au coeur, (Thaon, 1992, translated by Jean Migrenne and Amiot Lenganey), Whole Grain: Collected Poems, 1958-1989 (1990), The Quagmire Effect (1988), Deadly James and Other Poems (1987), The Broken Bowl: New and Uncollected Poems (1983), Black Man Abroad: The Toulouse Poems (1978), and At Bay (1969).
He is also the author of Langston Hughes (1967) and the editor, with Theodore L. Gross, of Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America (1968). Emanuel's essays and other writings have been included in many anthologies and periodicals. Among his honors are a John Hay Whitney Award, a Saxton Memorial Fellowship, and a Special Distinction Award from the Black American Literature Forum.
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. He was also awarded the Dean's Award for Distinguished Achievement in 2007 from Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and has also been honored with a John Hay Whitney Award, a Saxton Memorial Fellowship, and a Special Distinction Award from the Black American Literature Forum.
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. Du Bois, and many others.
James Emanuel has been a professor of English at the University of Grenoble and the University of Toulouse, among other universities. He lives in Paris.
Poems - 10 in all
Emmett Till *
Wishes, For Alix
Bojangles And Jo
Poet As Fisherman
A Fool For Evergreen
The Young Ones, Flip Side
" I'm A Jazz Singer, " She Replied
Louis Armstrong And Duke Ellington