Emmett Till in Different States: Poems

Emmett Till in Different States: Poems

by Philip C Kolin


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The poems in Emmett Till in Different States span more than 7 decades of events in Emmett Till’s legacy from the 1940s to the present. In them Philip Kolin shows how Emmett Till’s importance has expanded from being a Civil Rights martyr to becoming a choric, heroic commentator on the tragedies of Civil Rights injustices (e.g. Medgar Evers’s murder, the Freedom Riders, the murders of Chicago’s children, Trayvon Martin), and a voice of conscience for America to hear and heed. The title of this collection points to the multiple ways we can see Emmett Till through time and space (e.g. geographic, historical, psychological, and theological.)
Kolin weaves other voices throughout the poems in this collection, most notably Mamie Till, Gospel great Mahalia Jackson who bought Till’s gravestone, an old black woman (Aunt Aretha) who meets Till in the Delta, Till’s fictionalized brothers (other black men who have been slain and their bodies left to rot), his fictionalized sister based upon the Shulamite woman in the Song of Songs, the Chicago River, and even Carolyn Bryant, the white woman whom Till was said to have offended. These voices–and Till’s as well–emerge from a variety of traditions–Biblical, the blues, classical mythology, spirituals.
According to Natasha Trethewey, the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States, “In the history of a nation still on the long journey toward full realization of its creed, there are stories that need to be told again and again. The murder of Emmett Till is one such story; it belongs to all of us and should be sung by many different voices. In Emmett Till in Different States, Philip Kolin adds his voice—a necessary retelling so that we might be transformed by the listening.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780883783603
Publisher: Third World Press
Publication date: 11/15/2015
Pages: 100
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Philip C. Kolin is the University Distinguished Professor in the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Southern Mississippi where he also edits The Southern Quarterly, a nationally renowned journal of the Arts in the South. He has taught at the University of Southern Mississippi for 41 years and has also traveled extensively in the Mississippi Delta where Till was slain. He is a native Chicagoan who graduated from Chicago State University, Mamie Till’s alma mater, the University of Chicago, and received his Ph.D. in English from Northwestern University. Kolin has lived in various parts of Chicago from the near west side, where Emmett Till’s grandmother Alma Sparkman lived in the 1940s, to the far south side to the northern suburbs of the city. Kolin has published more than 40 books, and over 200 scholarly articles, many on African American writers, themes, and influences, and at least 250 poems. Regarded as an international authority on Tennessee Williams, Kolin has published books on Williams with Cambridge University Press, Greenwood Publishing, McFarland, and Peter Lang. In particular, he has been recognized for his groundbreaking work on African American productions of Williams’s plays in such scholarly journals as African American Review and Theatre History Studies. Kolin has also published four books on contemporary African American Women playwrights, including the first book-length critical study of experimental dramatist Adrienne Kennedy (Univ. of South Carolina Press) and two books on Suzan-Lori Parks, the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer for drama (with McFarland and Routledge), plus he has edited a prized collection of essays for Routledge as such dramatists as Sonia Sanchez, Glenda Dickerson, Pearl Cleage, and Anna Deavere Smith. A poet as well, Kolin has published seven collections of poems, Reading God’s Handwriting (Kaufmann, 2012), and most recently Departures: Poems (Negative Capability Press, 2014).

Table of Contents

Emmett Till Chronology ix

Prologue to a Murder 3


Facts about Me 7

Emmett's Wallet 9

Pitching Pennies with Emmett 10

The Fedora 12

Grandma Alma 14

Aunt Aretha Remembers 15

Emmett and Mamie 17

R.I.P. Louis Till 19

My Father's Ring 20

Mamie Tills Warning 21

Emmett Till on Whistling 23

Mamie's Veil on Attending Her Son's Funeral 24

Mamie Tills Triolet 25

The Chicago River Leads a Jazz Funeral for Emmett 26

A Eulogy for Emmett to the Tune of The Old Ship of Zion 28

The Jet Photo 29

White Lies about Emmett Till 30

Uncle Moses's Dream 31

Come Visit Mississippi, 1955-1964 33

Emmett Tills Brothers Speak 34

Mahalia Sings the Blues 35

What Emmett Would Have Sung 36

Tiresias of Tallahatchie County 37

Slop Jars 38

The Jury 40

1955 41

Eisenhower and Me 43

The Judgment of Carolyn Bryant 45

Emmett Till's Sister 47

Death on a Bicycle 49

Medgar's Planting 50

The Freedom Riders 52

My Viet Nam 54

Had I Lived 56

Emmett Till on Dr. Martin Luther King 57

Mamie's Heirlooms 58

Emmett Till Road 59

Emmett Weeps over Chicago 60

The South Side of Chicago Is 62

The Train to Nain 63

Emmett's Second Resurrection 64

Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin 65

Antiphons for Emmett and Trayvon 66

Emmett Talks to Raynard 67

Searching for Emmett Till in the Loop 68

A Black Man in Chicago Celebrates Emmett Till's Birthday 69

Orpheus of Burr Oak 70

The Legacy 71

The Canonization of Emmett Till (August 28) 72

Notes 75

Author's Biography 88

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