Derrick Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He's worked as assistant poetry editor forThird World Press and The Cream City Review and has taught community writing workshops for individuals of all ages, including senior citizens. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chicago State University and a PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi.
A two-time Pushcart Nominee, Harriell's poems have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies. His first collection of poems, Cotton was published by Aquarius Press-Willow Books in 2010. Ropes, his second full-length collection, was published earlier this year by Willow Books.
Praise for Ropes
"In four rounds, Derrick Harriell tours us through the cultural history of boxing, from Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier to one of the first African American pugilists, writing from 1855. These richly detailed persona poems are spoken by boxers and also the journalists, cutmen, and girlfriends who surround the ring. Harriell's nuanced ear conveys not just the intimacies of a sport but the intimacies of the human spirit. Ropes is a knock out."
-Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Tender Hooks and Open House
"Derrick Harriell has mined the human history of lives perpetually in fight and woven a gutbucket stench of ghetto wail and back alley holler survival. The work of these four rounds, the transparent employment of voice and source, working the head, body, groin, and knees, is a flurry of converging dialogues, real and cleverly imagined, in conversation with self, God, Uncle Sam, other Black pugilists, and the women who adorn these boxers as trinket and stain.Ropes confirms Derrick Harriell is among the finest young poets in the country."
-Quraysh Ali Lansana, author of mystic turf
Jamaal X Jackson Converts Mike to Islam
Indiana Youth Center, 1993
See, there's puppets, masters, and puppet masters
and minions, and minions to the minions
and badass wolves in Stacey Adams
who tap dance on roots, and by roots
I don't mean the nappy curb on your forehead
but that river running through your dream.
You see it before laying your dome
on a steel bench, it wakes you
screaming, looking to punch anything
with two eyes. Brother don't you know
Jesus was from Bed-Stuy, that Mary
was a jazz singer from Harlem. Don't you know
you come from sophisticated songbirds,
that there's a Viduidae in your tree.
You're more than a bad nigger
with a bad knee, more than your fornications,
than the knives flying out your eyes.
Rejoice in knowing we're all an X
away from sunshine.