With content ranging from his mother to NBA superstars, poet and famed author Quincy Troupe dazzled and electrified an audience with his hard-edged poetry at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Union on Wednesday evening.
As the co-author of Hollywood-adapted “The Pursuit of Happyness” and author of 17 books, including eight volumes of poetry, Troupe is considered to be a true giant of the written word.
The event, which was followed by a discussion with University professor and acclaimed author Alexs Pate, was the final segment in the yearlong African American Authors series co-sponsored by University of Minnesota Libraries and The Givens Foundation for African American Literature.
“His language is magnetic … Quincy is a true American original,” said Pate before welcoming Troupe onto the stage.
Troupe went on to perform a series of poems with the energy and style of a jazz musician playing before a crowd.
“I have like 800 pages of poetry, so it’s hard for me to cut it down,” Troupe explained as he continued.
After receiving a thunderous applause, Troupe was joined by Pate to discuss his life, writing and relationship with jazz legend Miles Davis.
Troupe said he began writing poetry while living in France when he was young. But he said he didn’t discover his free-form voice until he moved to California. Troupe cited poets such as Dylan Thomas and Pablo Neruda as some of his major early influences.
In 1989, Troupe reached new literary heights after receiving the 1990 American Book Award for his involvement with the Miles Davis autobiography.
Troupe is one of the most widely celebrated authors in the world and was twice named the heavyweight champion of poetry at a national competition held in New Mexico.
“I think it’s really important when a poet who is read across such a wide range of places comes to visit,” said Pate.
Troupe also elaborated on his fascination with basketball and illustrated its link to black culture and jazz music.
“It’s a fast-paced urban game … in a great game of basketball, you have to improvise as you play,” explained Troupe.
Troupe regained national attention in 2006 when his biographical book Pursuit of Happyness, which he co-authored with Chris Gardner, was adapted into a full-length motion picture starring Will Smith.
First-year theater student Sam Humleker said he was drawn to Troupe because of the lyrical flow of his writing.
“There’s something very visceral about it … when you read it you can feel the rhythm in the words,” Humleker said.