Sterling D. Plumpp

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Sterling D. Plumpp
Born (1940-01-30) January 30, 1940 (age 81)
EducationSt. Benedict's College
Alma materRoosevelt University
OccupationPoet, critic
EmployerUniversity of Illinois

Sterling Dominic Plumpp (born January 30, 1940) is an American poet, educator, editor, and critic. He has written numerous books, including Hornman (1996), Harriet Tubman (1996), Ornate With Smoke (1997), Half Black, Half Blacker (1970), and The Mojo Hands Call, I Must Go (1982). Some of his work was included in The Best American Poetry 1996. He was an advisor for the television production of the documentary The Promised Land.

Life and work[edit]

Born in Clinton, Mississippi, Plumpp was raised by his maternal grandparents, Mattie and Victor Emmanuel Plumpp, on the cotton plantation where they worked as sharecroppers. Working with them in the fields, Plumpp and his brother did not attend school until they were eight or nine years old and could walk the ten miles to the school.[1] At 16, Plumpp converted to Catholicism. He won a scholarship to St. Benedict's College in Atchison, Kansas, where he discovered Greek literature and James Baldwin's work, and was inspired to become a writer. He left after two years, and in 1962 traveled north to Chicago. There he found work in a post office. Eventually he enrolled at Roosevelt University, majoring in psychology, while continuing to read widely. He earned a B.A. in 1968 and an M.A. in 1971.[2]

Plumpp's first book of poetry, Portable Soul, was published in 1969. Since then, he has edited and contributed to various anthologies, as well as publishing further collections of poetry. He won the Carl Sandburg Literary Prize for poetry for The Mojo Hands Call, I Must Go in 1983.

Plumpp took a post teaching African-American studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in 1971, and went on to become a full professor there, teaching literature and creative writing until he retired with emeritus status in December 2001—having become a $1 million winner in the Illinois Lottery.[1][3]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Portable Soul, Third World Press, 1969; revised edition, 1974.
  • Half Black, Half Blacker, Third World Press, 1970.
  • (Contributor) Patricia L. Brown, Don L. Lee, and Francis Ward (eds), To Gwen with Love, Johnson, 1971.
  • Muslim Men, Broadside Press, 1972.
  • Black Rituals, Third World Press, 1972.
  • Steps to Break the Circle, Third World Press, 1974.
  • Clinton (poems), Broadside Press, 1976.
  • (Editor) Somehow We Survive: An Anthology of South African Writing (illustrations by Dumile Feni), Thunder's Mouth Press, 1981. ISBN 9780938410010
  • (Contributor) Joyce Jones, Mary McTaggart, and Maria Mootry (eds), The Otherwise Room, The Poetry Factory Press, 1981.
  • The Mojo Hands Call, I Must Go (poems), Thunder's Mouth Press, 1982. ISBN 9780938410041
  • Blues: The Story Always Untold (poems), Oak Park, IL: Another Chicago Press, 1989, ISBN 9780961464486
  • Johannesburg & other poems, Another Chicago Press, 1993, ISBN 9780929968339
  • Hornman, Third World Press, 1995
  • Harriet Tubman (Adjoa J. Burrowes, illustrator), 1996.
  • Ornate With Smoke, Third World Press, 1997, ISBN 9780883781982
  • Paul Robeson (a children's book; Adjoa J. Burrowes, illustrator), 1998, ISBN 9780883780657
  • Velvet BeBop Kente Cloth, Third World Press, 2001.

Further reading[edit]

  • James Cunningham, "Sterling Plumpp", in Trudier Harris and Thadious M. Davis (eds), Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 41, Afro-American Poets since 1955, 1985, pp. 257–265.
  • “Plumpp, Sterling D(ominic)”, in Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series, vol. 24, ed. Deborah A. Straub, 1988, pp. 371–372.
  • James Cunningham, "Baldwin Aesthetics in Sterling Plumpp's Mojo Poems", Black American Literature Forum 23 (Fall 1989): 505–518.
  • Sterling Plumpp, "Sterling Plumpp", in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, ed. Joyce Nakamura, vol. 21, 1995, pp. 165–178.


  1. ^ a b Tarvis Williams, "Sterling Plumpp: A Biography", Mississippi Writers & Musicians.
  2. ^ Sterling Plump Biography, The HistoryMakers. Interview April 8, 2003.
  3. ^ Tarvis Williams, "Poet with a stroke of luck, Sterling Plumpp", African American Registry.

External links[edit]