Ishmael Reed

Ishmael Reed profile image

Ishmael Reed is an internationally renowned, award-winning novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist with more than 25 published books and six plays to his credit. In 1998 he became the 23rd UC Berkeley faculty member to be awarded with the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship award.

Reed also is a publisher, editor of numerous anthologies and magazines, television producer, radio and television commentator, teacher, and lecturer. In addition to his 26 years spent as a lecturer at UC Berkeley, Reed also taught at Harvard, Dartmouth, and Yale.

New and Collected Poems, 1964–2006 (Carroll & Graf, 2006) was recently released in paperback and New and Collected Poems, 1964–2007 (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2007) was listed by The New York Times Book Review as one of the four best books of poetry published in 2006. The latter title also received the California Gold Medal in Poetry by the Commonwealth Club in June 2007.

In February 2008 Da Capo Press published Mixing It Up: Taking On The Media Bullies & Other Reflections, a collection of Reed’s essays. In July 2008 the same publisher released Powwow: American Short Fiction from Then to Now, which Reed edited.

Two of Reed’s books have been nominated for National Book Awards, and his book of poetry, Conjure: Selected Poems, 1963–1970 (1972), (University of Massachusetts Press, 1970) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. “Beware Do Not Read This Poem,” written in Seattle in 1969, has been cited by Gale Research Company as one of the approximately 20 poems that teachers and librarians have identified as most frequently studied in literature courses. Harold Bloom designated Mumbo Jumbo one of the 500 important books of the Western canon. Library Journal called From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas 1900-2002, edited by Reed, “outstanding” and “one of the four best poetry anthologies of 2003.”

Reed’s other awards include writing fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts, as well as New York State Council of the Arts fellowships for publishing and video production. He received the Langston Hughes Medal, awarded by City College of New York (1995); the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award (1997), establishing a three-year collaboration with the Oakland-based Second Start Literacy Project in 1998; a MacArthur Fellowship (1998); a Fred Cody Award from the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association and was inducted into Chicago State University’s National Literary Hall of Fame of Writers of African Descent (1999); a Rene Castillo OTTO Award for Political Theatre (2002); and a Barnes & Noble Writer for Writers Award and a Phyllis Wheatley Award from the Harlem Book Fair (2003).

In the last five years Reed has been honored with a Robert Kirsch Award, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize; the D.C. Area Writing Project’s Second Annual Exemplary Writer’s Award; the Martin Millennial Writers, Inc. Contribution to Southern Arts Award in Memphis, Tennessee, and an invitation to speak at Stanford University’s Bill and Jean Lane Lecture Series.

Reed was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and currently lives in Oakland’s inner city with his wife, Carla Blank, a writer, educator, and director.

Visiting Scholar, Writing and Literature

Honorary Degree, State University of New York at Buffalo, Johnson C. Smith University