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

  • Portable Soul, 1969
  • Half Black, Half Blacker, Third World Press, 1970
  • Muslim Men, Broadside Press, 1972
  • Black Rituals, Third World Press, 1972
  • Steps to Break the Circle, Third World Press, 1974
  • Portable Soul, Third World Press, 1974
  • Clinton, Broadside Press, 1976
  • The Mojo Hands Call, I Must Go, Thunder`s Mouth Press, 1982
  • Johannesburg & Other Poems, 1993
  • Hornman, Third World Press, 1996
  • The Ballad of Harriet Tubman, Third World Press, 1998
  • Ornate With Smoke, Third World Press, 1998
  • Paul Robeson, 1998
  • Blues Narratives, Tia Chucha, 1999
  • Velvet BeBop Kente Cloth, Third World Press, 2001
  • Harriet Tubman, Third World Press, 2005

Selected Titles At Your Library

Black rituals /
ISBN: 0883780240. OCLC Number:

Third World Press,. Chicago :. 1991, ©1972.

The Mojo hands call, I must go /
ISBN: 0938410040. OCLC Number:

Thunder's Mouth Press,. New York :. 1982.

Somehow we survive :
ISBN: 0938410016. OCLC Number:

Thunder's Mouth Press,. New York :. ©1982.

Johannesburg & other poems /
ISBN: 0929968336. OCLC Number:

Another Chicago Press ;. Chicago :. ©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."--Jacket.

Horn man /
ISBN: 0883781778. OCLC Number:

Third World Press,. Chicago, IL :. ©1995.

Hornman officiates the pauses, whirlwinds and boptismal journey of saxophonist Von Freeman through the distinctive cadence of blues verse. Brilliantly linking his poetic vision with his insights into Black and blues culture, Sterling Plumpp provides lyrical access to the inner soul of Black-and-blues folk.--Page [4] of cover.

Ornate with smoke /
ISBN: 0883781980. OCLC Number:

Third World Press,. Chicago :. ©1997.

Blues :
ISBN: 1882688201. OCLC Number:

Tia Chucha Press ;. Chicago :. 1999.

"Sterling Plumpp's blues narratives are the first portions to be published of his ongoing work in progress, Mfua's Song. In order to discover and invent his own identity, he reaches back as far as the first ancestor of whom he can know - the woman Mfua, kidnapped in Africa, enslaved and brought to America. In this section of Mfua's Song, as twentieth-century Mary and Victor - portraits of the poet's mother and grandfather - tell their blues narratives, they not only live their own lives of pain, sorrow, dignity and love, but also embody aspects of Mfua that they bring down through the years with them and pass on to those in their care. 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."--BOOK JACKET.

Velvet be-bop kente cloth /
ISBN: 0883782421. OCLC Number:

Third World Press,. Chicago :. ©2003.


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

    Speaking Engagements

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