Hettie Jones

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Hettie Jones reading at the Great Hall, Cooper Union

'Hettie Jones (nee Cohen; born in 1934) is an American poet. She has written a memoir of the Beat Scene, three volumes of poetry, and publications for children and young adults, including The Trees Stand Shining and Big Star Fallin' Mama: Five Women in Black Music.

Jones received acclaim for her memoir, How I Became Hettie Jones (published in 1990 by Grove Press), that describes her marriage to LeRoi Jones (currently known as Amiri Baraka) and her personal struggles in an effort to find her own identity, as she was labeled as both an outcast of her Jewish family and wife of a black artist during the Civil Rights Movement. She also includes stories of her friendships with popular Beat generation figures Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Frank O'Hara, Joel Oppenheimer, and Charles Olson.

In 1999, Jones won the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award for her first volume of poetry titled Drive (1998, Hanging Loose Press).[1] According to Booklist, the publication of Drive is what established Jones as a “potent and fearless poet.”[2] Jones also published two additional volumes of poetry titled All Told (2003) and Doing 70 (2007), both of which are available in print from Hanging Loose Press. Jones’ poetry focuses on topics related to everyday life, “whether presenting New York scenes with delightfully quirky insight, offering biting but brief political commentary, or lightly cloaking compact observations on the state of the world in simple words with sharp wit” (Booklist). Her poems are written in a self-narrative style that often display hope and positivity. She also explores themes of transportation and transformation that result in reflection and internal meditation. These themes are especially specific to the poems found in Drive and Doing 70.

In 1957, Jones and her husband established Yugen, a literary magazine, and later launched the publication house Totem Press.[3] Jones is a longtime editor for many major publication houses, has been reading her poetry and stories for many years at various venues, and has taught poetry, fiction, and memoir at many universities including Penn State University, NYU, the 92nd Street Y, University of Wyoming, and Parsons School of Design.[4] Jones is a former chair of the PEN Prison Writing Committee, and from 1989 to 2002 she ran a writing workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women at Bedford Hills, which included inmate Judy Clark as a student.[citation needed] This workshop hailed as inspiration for Jones’ nationally distributed collection, Aliens At The Border.[5] Jones also co-authored a memoir for Rita Marley, widow of Bob Marley. [6] More recently, Jones has received grants to begin a writing program on Manhattan's Lower East Side at the Lower Eastside Girls Club Center for Community.[7] Her book, Love, H, a selection from 40 years of correspondence with the sculptor Helene Dorn, was published by Duke University Press in October 2016.[8]

Jones is the mother of two daughters, Kellie Jones and Lisa Jones Brown.


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