Tyehimba Jess is an American poet. His book Olio received the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Jess was born Jesse S. Goodwin. He grew up in Detroit, where his father worked in that city’s Department of Health. His father later became the first vice president of Detroit’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and his mother was a teacher and nurse, who founded a nursing school at Wayne County Community College in 1972.
At 16, Jess started writing poetry and by 18, he had won second prize for poetry at an NAACP academic competition. He graduated from high school in 1984. Next, he enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he intended to be an English major and pursue his poetry writing. However, he soon abandoned this as an option, and dropped out of the university in 1987. During this time, to support himself, Jess worked as an intern at a bank, as a community organizer, and as substitute teacher in the public school system in Chicago.