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He graduated from the University of Chicago, and New York University, with an MFA. He teaches poetry and fiction at CUNY College of Staten Island and is the faculty adviser for Caesura, the university's literary arts magazine.
His work appeared in Soul Fires: Young Black Men on Love and Violence, Obsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora, Power Lines: Ten Years of Poetry from Chicago's Guild Complex, and Slam: The Art of Performance Poetry.
- 2000 Duncan YMCA Writer's Voice Fellow
- Illinois Arts Council Artist Roster
- 2000 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship
- 2001 Chicago Sun Times Poetry Award.
- 2001 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Poetry Awards
- 2001-2 Ragdale Fellow
- 2004 National Poetry Series
- 2004 NEA grant 
- 2006 Whiting Award 
- 2007 Lannan residency 
- "When I Speak of Blues Be Clear", Cave Canem
- "out". Ploughshares. Spring 2002.[dead link]
- "freedom". Ploughshares. Spring 2002.[dead link]
- "martha promise receives leadbelly, 1935", Poetry Foundation
- "harris county chain gang"; "home again"; "martha promise receives leadbelly, 1935", Perihelion
- Soulfires: Young Black Men in Love and Violence (1996)
- Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry (2000)
- Dark Matter 2: Reading the Bones (2004)
- African American Pride: Celebrating Our Achievements, Contributions, and Enduring Legacy. Citadel Press. 2003. ISBN 978-0-8065-2498-6.
Tyehimba Jess ... coaxes an astonishingly rich world from the wood and steel scraps of the life he finds before him. He chronicles the story of Leadbelly — the killer, the lover, the victim, the son, the greatest bluesman of his time—and he has the chops to animate this complex man.
- David Daniel (Spring 2006). "leadbelly, poems by Tyehimba Jess (Verse)". Ploughshares. Archived from the original on November 4, 2007.
- Tyehimba Jess's Wave Books author page
- "Tyehimba Jess", Fishouse
- "Tyehimba Jess", The Book of Voices
- "NINE LIVES OF CHICAGO POETRY: TYEHIMBA JESS", Chicago Poetry
- Poems by Tyehimba Jess at Nashville Review
- Profile at The Whiting Foundation