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Eugene Redmond

(b. 1937)

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(b. 1937), poet, playwright, critic, editor, educator,

and important figure in the 1960s black arts movement. Eugene Redmond was born 1 December 1937 in St. Louis, Missouri. Orphaned at age nine, he was raised by his grandmother and “neighborhood fathers,” made up of members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and friends of his older brother. During high school he worked on the newspaper and yearbook, performed in school and church plays, and composed for neighborhood singing groups.

From 1958 to 1961 Redmond served as a U.S. Marine in the Far East, acquiring a speaking knowledge of Japanese. He was an associate editor of the East St. Louis Beacon from 1961 to 1962. In 1963 Redmond co-founded a weekly paper in East St. Louis, the Monitor, working at different times as a contributing editor, executive editor, and editorial page editor.

At Southern Illinois University he was the first African American student editor of the university newspaper. After receiving his bachelor's degree in English literature in 1964, he earned a master's degree in English literature from Washington University in 1966.

In 1965, while still in graduate school, Redmond won first prize in the Washington University Annual Festival of the Arts for his poem “Eye in the Ceiling.” In 1968 he published his first volume of poetry, A Tale of Two Toms, or Tom-Tom (Uncle Toms of East St. Louis and St. Louis). Subsequent volumes include A Tale of Time & Toilet Tissue (1969), Sentry of the Four Golden Pillars (1970), River of Bones and Flesh and Blood (1971), Songs from an Afro/Phone (1972), Consider Loneliness as These Things (1973), In a Time of Rain & Desire (1973), and Eye on the Ceiling (1991). Three of these collections were published by the Black Writers Press, which Redmond founded with Henry Dumas and Sherman Fowler. He has been poet in residence at Oberlin College, California State University, University of Wisconsin, and Wayne State.

From 1967 to 1969 Redmond was a senior consultant to Katherine Dunham at Southern University's Performing Arts Training Center, where he acted, directed, wrote plays, and supervised the drama and writing departments. Twelve of Redmond's plays, ballets, and choral dramas have been produced on university campuses and on California television. Redmond's one-act Will I Still Be Here Tomorrow was also produced Off-Broadway at the Martinique Theatre in New York in 1972. Redmond combined writing with performance with a 1973 recording of his poems, Bloodlinks and Sacred Places.

Redmond's poetic style displays his knowledge of the spoken word and performance. He sees basic rhythms and music as a key to a style of African American writing. Many of his poems have a rap-like beat and contain direct references to jazz, blues, spirituals, soul music, and black musicians.

Frequent allusions to African heritage also convey pride in African American culture and history and a black consciousness characteristic of the Black Arts movement. Some of his other poems explore the bleakness of urban existence while some depart from the overtly political style of the period, lyrically exploring introspective or romantic themes.


Subjects: Literature

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