Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Sterling Plumpp  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Poetry

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1940 in Clinton, Mississippi

-- Sterling Plumpp on --
-- Website --
-- Sterling Plumpp on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Sterling attended Benedictine College and Roosevelt University in Chicago. He also went on to teach at the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Plumpp is an African-American poet, editor, scholar and teacher. He was educated in Chicago at Benedictine College and Roosevelt University. He also taught African American studies at the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois and became a full professor teaching both literature and creative writing. He retired from the University of Illinois at Chicago, with emeritus status after teaching there since 1971.Plumpp is often called a "blues poet" because of the influence of blues music on the themes and rhythms of his poetry. He has received numerous awards for his work, among them the Richard Wright Litereary Excellence Award and the Carl Sandburg Litereary Award.Plumpp has contributed to several publications including: ''To Gwen with Love'' with Patricia L. Brown, Don L. Lee, and Francis Ward in 1971 and ''The Otherwise Room'' with Joyce Jones, Mary McTaggart, and Maria Mootry in 1981. He also edited ''Somehow We Survive: An Anthology of South African Writing'' in 1981.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Portable soul,

Third World Press. 1969

Half Black, half Blacker

Third World Press. 1970

Black Rituals
ISBN: 0883780240

Third World Press. 1987

Sterling Plumpp contrasts the rituals of Africa with African American rituals that have emerged in the twentieth century.

The Mojo Hands Call, I Must Go
ISBN: 0938410040

Thunder's Mouth Press. 1988

Book by Plumpp, Sterling

Somehow We Survive: An Anthology of South African Writing
ISBN: 0938410016

Thunder's Mouth Pr. 1982

A collection of poems portrays the conditions of life and the struggle for freedom of the blacks of South Africa.

Johannesburg & Other Poems
ISBN: 0929968336

Another Chicago Pr. 1993

A poetic and autobiographical fusing of three landscapes: the poet's native Mississippi, Chicago, and South Africa where Sterling Plumpp travelled in 1992. Plumpp paints here stunning and lyrical parallels between Black lives in the US and Black lives in South Africa. Through the prism of the blues Plumpp sees sharecroppers, maids, and the struggle for civil rights on two continents. Like a blues song, Johannesburg is a work where the reader may find a tragic, and often comic, common humanity as composed and sung by a master.

ISBN: 0883781778

Third World Press. 1996

""HornMan"" is a poetry collection dedicated to the legendary musician, Von Freeman.

Ornate with Smoke
ISBN: 0883781980

Third World Press. 1997

Poetry that comes out of the jazz music of African American artists.

Blues Narratives
ISBN: 1882688201

Tia Chucha. 1999

Plumpp's new poems show his extraordinary sense of the movement of speech and the poetic line, his dazzling metaphors, and his ability to turn language inside out and upside down by looking within the words and rhythms of what we commonly say without thinking. In his poetic versions of the blues, he brings something new into American poetry both technically and spiritually.

Plumpp's blues narratives are a poetic form and a dialogue between poet and subject--they are unlike anything else in American poetry: a vital, passionate, haunting poetry meant to be read and spoken and sung.

Velvet BeBop Kente Cloth
ISBN: 0883782421

Third World Press. 2003

This collection is the third in a trilogy of poetic works created by Sterling Plumpp to allow audiences to explore the language of music articulated through the nuances of jazz, blues, and bebop.


  • Carl Sandburg Literary Award for poetry
  • Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award
  • 3 - Illinois Arts Council Awards

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

    , contact author.