Author Quraysh Ali Lansana’s book, the skin of dreams: new and collected poems 1995-2018, has been named a finalist for the 2020 Benjamin Franklin Award. The Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) announced finalists in the prestigious program on March 19. IBPA’s flagship award has been recognizing excellence and innovation in independent publishing for 32 years. Winners will be announced in May.
“We could not be more excited and honored for Quraysh and this wonderful book,” said Shawn Crawford, publisher of Tulsa-based indie publisher The Calliope Group. “These poems are getting the recognition they so deserve.”
“Winning an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award says to bookstores, reviewers, and readers, ‘This is one of the best books published in this category and it deserves to be noticed’,” said Patagonia Books publisher and incoming IBPA Board Chair Karla Olson. “The finalists, which reflect the highest standards of professionalism and attention to detail, celebrate the innovation and diversity coming out of today’s independent publishing community.”
Over 160 volunteer librarians, booksellers, and design and editorial experts – most of whom have decades of book industry experience – judged the 1,697 entries submitted to the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award program. The judging process took seven months, beginning in September 2019 and continuing into March 2020. At the end of the process, all 1,697 entrants will be given a written critique from each of the three judges who reviewed the book.
the skin of dreams is Lansana’s first new and collected works after publishing eight books of poetry. The author studied with the acclaimed poet Gwendolyn Brooks and found influences in the Black Arts Movement. Works include Walmart Republic with Christopher Stewart (2014), mystic turf (2012), bloodsoil (sooner red) (2009), Southside Rain (2000), and cockroach children: corner poems and street psalms (1995).
In her review of the skin of dreams, Grace Cavalieri of the Washington Independent Review of Books wrote, “There are reasons why this book should be put in a capsule and sent into space so everyone in the next galaxy could see, hear, and understand, what it was to be black in America. Heritage. Heritage. Heritage, from the poet’s great-great grandfather; to the poems in Harriet Tubman’s voice.”
As an educator, Lansana taught as a faculty member of the Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Drama Division of The Juilliard School. As Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University from 2002-2011, he was also Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing there until 2014. Written with Georgia A. Popoff, Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community was a 2012 NAACP Image Award nominee.
Continuing the legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks and championing other voices, Lansana’s recent work also includes The Whiskey of Our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience & Change Agent, with Georgia A. Popoff (2017) and The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop, with Kevin Coval and Nate Marshall (2015). His work also appears in Best American Poetry 2019.
A Tulsa Artist Fellow, Lansana serves as an executive producer and creative director of the radio program, “Focus: Black Oklahoma.” The show originates from NPR affiliate KWGS at the University of Tulsa and airs monthly. The program brings news of interest to the African American community in Oklahoma.
the skin of dreams was a Booklist starred review of the day and won a NYC Big Book Award for design. The book is available from thecalliopegroup.com, independent bookstores, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.