James Emanuel was a poet and scholar from Alliance, Nebraska. Emanuel, who is ranked by some critics as one of the best and most neglected poets of the 20th century.
Emanuel served during World War II, partly as secretary to the Army’s first black general, General Benjamin O. Davis Sr. After the war, Emanuel earned his BA from Howard University, his MA from Northwestern, and his PhD in English and comparative literature from Columbia. Emanuel began teaching at City College, CUNY while completing his doctorate; he taught at the institution from 1957 until his retirement in 1983.
In his poetry, Emanuel frequently utilizes traditional forms and evokes the harsh realities of black experience. His many collections include Black Man Abroad (1978), Whole Grain: Collected Poems 1958–1989 (1991), and The Force and the Reckoning (2001).
Emanuel published more than 300 poems, 13 individual books, an influential anthology of African American literature, an autobiography, and more. He is also credited with creating a new literary genre, jazz-and-blues haiku, often read with musical accompaniment.
In the 1990s, Emanuel developed a new form of writing, frequently described as jazz haiku. His collection JAZZ from the Haiku King (1999) contains examples of the 17-syllable stanza form. James A. Emanuel died in 2013.