A college classmate and friend of Kysha Brown's once said of her first
impression of Brown: "I remember seeing this little girl sitting at the
front of the room with a really serious look on her face. There was
something about her, I said 'I bet she g'on have some provocative [stuff] to
say.' And she did."
Small and serious. An apt description of the 5' 1" woman who has approached each of her life's goals with a fiery, persistent intensity. She not only finished high school with honors, she was a National Merit Scholar and recipient of a landmark scholarship to the University of New Orleans. Once she found the courage to say aloud "I am a writer," it wasn't long after that she declared herself a publisher.
Brown's poetry is widely anthologized, in such collections as Beyond the Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century (Ed. E. Ethelbert Miller. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 2002) and Role Call (Ed. Tony Medina et al. Chicago: Third World Press, 2002). Critics have declared "meticulous craft, a fine ear for alliteration and a sensitive use of metaphor" as hallmarks of her work. For Brown, who began seriously pursuing a writing career after joining the New Orleans writing workshop NOMMO Literary Society in 1995, that meticulous craftsmanship is a means rather than an end. Producing a body of work that will stand up to time's critical eye is key to Brown's larger goal of contributing to literature, particularly poetry.
When Brown joined NOMMO Literary Society at the invitation of Kalamu ya Salaam, a renowned New Orleans writer, she was delighted to find her literary home, a supportive and committed community of writers. "What I saw was that there was a life before me that I had not known possible," says Brown. "I knew then what I was born to do."
What she wanted to do was write and publish. One day, she thought, she would own her own press. Salaam insisted that "one day" was now. In 1995 Brown and Salaam founded Runagate Press ' which later became Runagate Multimedia ' with a stated mission "to promulgate New Orleans and African heritage cultures world wide."
Since Runagate's inception, Brown and Salaam have published the anthology Fertile Ground (1996), which includes the works of renowned writers Amiri Baraka, Kathleen Neal Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez and others. A second collection, From a Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets, an anthology of established and emerging New Orleans writers, was released in 1998. Later that same year, Runagate ' in association with Blackwords and Alexander Publishing Group ' released 360 Degrees: A Revolution of Black Poets, an anthology of contemporary black poetry that encompassed the rush of the then newly re-energized poetry scene.
To say that operating an independent press committed to publishing black poetry has been challenging is an understatement of epic proportions. Brown and her partners have financed Runagate's endeavors themselves. To fund her passion, Brown has steadily moved along a parallel career track that has taken her from administrative work at a major medical center to production administration for one of the country's largest music festivals ' The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival ' to her current position as executive director for a neighborhood development initiative. Along the way she has brought her work, her skills and her love of poetry to the stage, the classroom, and the public arena. For three years, she, alongside Salaam, led NOMMO Literary Society's weekly writing workshop as associate director. Through Runagate she co-produced and hosted a New Orleans cable show featuring local poets. She has taught poetry workshops in New Orleans Public Schools and was poet in residence with the New Orleans Ballet Association. She has been a presenter at academic conferences at Howard University, New York University, and the University of Maryland. Since 1996 she has performed around the country with Kalamu ya Salaam's WordBand, a unique poetry/music performance ensemble. In 2003, she was named the featured poet for the Tom Dent Forum, a presentation of the African American Resource Center at the New Orleans Public Library.
Brown married Frederick Robinson in the summer of 2002 and the couple divides their time between New Orleans and the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg. Today, Brown Robinson finds herself immersed in a life of art and contribution, a future she only hinted at in 1998's "a letter to myself1":
writing to say
that i am finally
to join you
in our future
it has taken me
packing our bags for
life is no easy task
at any rate,
I'll be you
when I get there
Click to order via Amazon
Pub. Date: December 2009
Format: Paperback, 66pp
Publisher: Runagate Press
Collected poems by Kysha Brown Robinson
There is perhaps no greater evidence, though, of Kysha Brown's "seriousness," of her passion for excellence and powerful presence, than her poetry. In "fierce, spherical woman" she writes:
in a world of squares
I spin thirds
entrapped in cubicles
plotting the means
to the arc of my dreams
the directness of diameters
dissecting planes of desire
no matter where I be
I want to see
the other possibilities
Like much of her work, "fierce spherical woman" is a fearless exploration of inner space, a fearless declaration of self in the face of an unyielding world.360' A Revolution of Black Poets
Format: Hardcover, 232pp
Pub. Date: September 1998
Publisher: BlackWords, Inc.
At poetry slams, in coffee houses and cafes, on spoken word CDs, and even featured in Hollywood movies, a new and exciting renaissance of Black poetry is emerging out of the oral tradition of African-American culture. 360': A Revolution of Black Poets presents the cutting edge of this poetic firestorm sweeping across America.
Featuring five pages per poet, 360 presents forty established and emerging Black poets in an anthology of contemporary verse. Stylistically there is everything from rap-like performance verse to haiku, political rants to lyrical love songs, narrative tales to personal meditations. 360 is a treasure map of Black poetry.
360 is published in conjunction with a two-day series of poetry readings, workshops, and film screenings at the Baltimore Museum of Art (Sept. 11) and the University of Maryland-College Park (Sept. 12).
Pub. Date: June 1996
Format: Paperback, 288pp
Publisher: Runagate Press
Why are we waiting for others to publish us, pick over our words & tell us what we were thinking, what we meant, what's going on?
Fertile Ground is our answer to these questions.
We created this publication not simply to showcase our own writing but really to empower black literature through rounding up some of the most creative work we could find. we have put writers together with graphic artists & photographers-& we mean writers at all levels, from a polyphony of planes: political analysis to love poems, memoirs to science fiction, straight exposition to some wild 'what the hell was that!" shit. whatever we are doing in our effort to shape literature blackly.
Editors Tony Medina, Samiya A. Bashir and Quraysh Ali Lansana
Format: Paperback, 500pp.
Publisher: Third World Press
Pub. Date: February 2002
What is the role of today's emerging young artists in the current struggle for equality and justice? How do the voices of the neXt generation define the issues and politics of today?
Role Call is just that. It's a role call of a new generation of Black writers and artists. It is an exploration of our current cultural landscape in poetry, fiction, essays, visual arts and theater-on-the-page. This groundbreaking anthology is the litmus test--and a call to arms--of a generation grown fat on the limited freedoms won by the civil rights struggle. Role Call takes on issues of race, sexuality, education, nationalism, spirituality, AIDS, globalization, hip hop and the rise of the prison industrial complex. Role Call is a journey through the tropics of black rage, black love and black fire.
E. Ethelbert Miller (Editor)
Format: Paperback, 572pp
Pub. Date: March 2002
Publisher: Black Classic Press
More than 100 prominent African American poets contribute, including the distinguished and award-winning poets Toi Derricotte, Sam Cornish, Jabari Asim, and Pinkie Gordon Lane.
This is an expansive collection made rich and full by a powerful synthesis of voices. Here the voices of emerging writers resonate along with award-winning and noted poets. The result is a vibrant collection of Black poetry that delights and amazes with moments of solitude, reflection, rebirth and love. In assembling the poems for Beyond the Frontier, Miller contacted hundreds of writers and reviewed over one thousand poems. Eventually he selected and shaped the poems into a massive book with 175 contributors, 354 poems and 600 pages ' making Beyond the Frontier one of the largest collections of Black poetry ever published.
Miller is a poet and an intentional anthologist. He has made a career as a nurturer of Black writers and works tirelessly to ensure the survival of African American poetry. 'I wanted to compile a work that would chronicle the beginning of a new century and a new age in Black poetry,' said Miller in discussing Beyond the Frontier, 'One that included works by those who were prominent at the end of the last century and those that will be prominent into the new century.' Miller went on to say, 'This is the beginning, this is the edge, this is the frontier and this volume is actually looking beyond the frontier.'
The premise here is simple enough: Take ten of the baddest, most daring and creative poet - writers - performers from the new and old school and a dash of dynamic world jazz, put them together on a CD, and let the fireworks begin. Jazz Poetry Kafe: The BlackWords Compilation CD is here and it's the most eclectic collection of poetry, spoken work, acid jazz and world rhythms.
With rare vinyl appearances by Black Arts Poets Haki R. Madhubuti and Sonia Sanchez and riveting performances by Grand Slammin' Winner-Tonya Matthews, Prolific Writer-Tony Medina, and Phenomenal Jazz Band-Fertile Ground, Jazz Poetry Kafe captures at it's peak, the current movement of Black Literature and Performance.
by Kalamu Y. Salaam (Editor)
Pub. Date: April 1998
Format: Hardcover, 220pp
Publisher: Runagate Press