Praise for Man with Two Shadows
“Black’s experiences are universal, and there is comfort in looking at this profound loss through his eyes.” - Marjory Wentworth, SC poet laureate
“Al Black has put together a gorgeous and heart-breaking collection that is a testament to the dutifulness and responsibility we feel to and for parents we find difficult to understand.” - Ed Madden, Columbia, SC poet laureate
“Al Black’s poetry is astonishing, defiantly original; scrubs our ears with dirty bathtub water; roars with love for a leather belted father and battle-proven mother.” - Tim Conroy, author of Theologies of Terrain
When asked what inspired his earlier poetry, local poet, Al Black, answers, “Where you’re at. Sometimes you’re angry. Sometimes you’re happy. Sometimes you just see a situation and a metaphor goes through your head.” This inspiration provides Columbia locals with a captivating voice to not only experience but to feel through Black’s stunning craft.
Local poet and supporter of the literary arts, Al Black, moved to Columbia, SC, nearly 10-years-ago. Originally from Lafayette, IN, the father of 4 worked at The University of South Carolina in facilities management before retiring to become a full-time writer.
“My wife and I had four children and when the youngest one got old enough- my wife went back to school in her late 40s and got her PHD at 55 and wanted a career,” Black says, “So, I said, ‘I can work anywhere and I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s not further north,’ and so we ended up down here … I worked at The University of South Carolina for a while; I just left them. I’m 66, so I can be a full-time writer now and a trophy husband.”
Black attended college at Ball State, where he was an athlete who studied voice. “I was one of those weirdos in college,” he says, “I was a voice major and an athlete.” The poet not only played sports in college, but he would go on to coach college, high-school and semi-pro.
However, most Columbia locals know Black for his stunning craft of poetry and for the near 100 literary events that he hosts and co-hosts in a given year. The poet crafted his first poem at the age of nine-years-old; however, he didn’t share his first poem until age 58, which resulted in the publication of his first book, I Only Left for Tea, published by Muddy Ford Press in 2015.
“I started really writing at eight or nine, but I never shared … I don’t know if I was afraid to share or if I just didn’t care to share,” Black explains,” When I came here, I didn’t see an event I liked, so I started what’s called Mind Gravy about eight and a half years ago. I wanted to make sure I stirred it up as far as style, race, culture … about a month or two in, I shared a poem … I read it in a gallery and Cindi [Boiter] and her husband [Bob Jolley] heard me and said oh, they’d like to publish me and I was like, ‘I don’t know,’ but I eventually agreed to it. And it’s gone from there.” Cindi Boiter and Bob Jolley are the publishers at Muddy Ford Press, a boutique publishing house just outside of Columbia.
Black’s first book was edited by Ed Madden and published by Muddy Ford Press. Madden is the Columbia city poet laureate as well as a professor of English at USC and the director of the university’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Since then, Black has co-edited a poetry anthology, titled Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race, with fellow poet Len Lawson, where several of his poems were published along with those of a number of local writers. Black and Lawson founded the Poets Respond to Race Initiative, and the anthology originated from the initiative.
Black has been very involved in issues of race and reconciliation. This is work that the poet has always been passionate about, even while working at Perdue University in Indiana. “… I worked at a private business but mostly I worked at Perdue. I was trained as a diversity trainer, and so, it’s been work that I’ve always been passionate about. And, I believe whatever you do should reflect your values,” the former Indiana NAACP Vice President explains.
Today, most wait in anticipation for the poet’s newest publication, a collection of poems entitled Man with Two Shadows. The book release will be held at Tapp’s this Saturday, September 22nd at 7pm. At the release, you can expect live entertainment from jazz band, Vasaboo group, along with poem readings by the author, followed by a book signing.
The new book is a collection of poetry inspired by his father. After his passing at age 94, the poet wrote for 120 days, eventually compiling a book with the poems he had created during the time-period before and after his father’s death. Ed Madden, Black’s friend and first publication’s editor, edited this collection of poetry, as well.
“Well, it’s basically shortly before my dad’s passing and then it’s in two parts. You know, that period shortly before when he’s getting sick and you’re going back to see him … and you’re beginning to worry,” the son says, “and then I was with him when he passed. He passed a little after one o’clock in the morning. And then it’s that time and then immediately after … that’s what the book’s about. It’s about, you know, everybody has a different relationship with their parents. It’s never all smooth sailing … So, yeah, my dad was the old-world way and you know, I was a baby boomer. It’s dealing with that relationship, you know, that feeling that’s there.”
Months after the passing of his father, the poet lost his mother who was 93. Both parents surface throughout Black’s latest poetry, and he is currently in the editing process for a book inspired by his mother.
“My father died at 94 in October. My mother was lonely and died in April at 93,” Black explains, “And so, I wrote for 120 days there, too. So, now I’m in the editing process of her book.”
When he isn’t writing, you can find Black hosting and co-hosting multiple events, including Mind Gravy (Wednesdays at 8pm), Poems: Bones of the spirit (held once a month at a yoga studio), Blue Note Poetry (every first Tuesday of the month) and Songversation (monthly), along with multiple events surrounding the Poets Respond to Race initiative. Each event is unique until itself.
Black also hosts and organizes three workshops, where poets, through invitation, work on a prompt, share their work and critique it. Black stays busy and as evidenced through his dedication and involvement in the literary arts.
At age 66, the poet is still following what he is passionate about and living through his talent. As said best by Black himself, “You know, if you have the talent for something, you should do.” Most are happy to know that this kind, humble soul lives through these words.
by Hallie Hayes
If You’re Going
Book Launch - Man with Two Shadows
by Al Black
Saturday, September 22nd - 7 pm
Tapp’s Arts Center
1644 Main Street, Columbia, SC
For more information on Muddy Ford Press go to www.MuddyFordPress.com