Skip Navigation

Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for Duende
Book cover for Duende

The selected poems from over fifty years by the great poet and biographer and friend of Miles Davis.

Quincy Troupe writes poetry in great waves. The words are just notes. It's the music you make with them that matters. He's not a wordsmith, he's a shaman conjuring long repetitive lines, cadences of looking across the sea towards Africa and haunted by the legacy of slavery and racism, or of remembering fellow conjurers, poets and musical artists, celebrating, always celebrating, but never only that.

In the fifty-page, incantatory poem, "Ghost Voices," there is a longing to be reconnected to the past, and a longing too to be free of it. In the short title poem, "Duende: For García Lorca and Miles Davis," there lies, nakedly, Troupe's credo: "...secrets, mystery infused in black magic / that enters bodies in forms of music, art/ poetry imbuing language with sovereignty / in blood spooling back through violent centuries..." The version of the great poem "Avalanche (number 3)" that appears here is different from the version of the same poem he published nearly 25 years ago--in exactly the same way that a jazz artist picks up his horn to play the same song a little differently every time.
Troupe is a generous and gregarious poet in this giant offering that includes many new poems, as well as a selection chosen from across his eleven previously published volumes. What's remarkable is the constancy, the energy, and how he's always looking right at you in the here and now, and at the same time sees something over your shoulder that others don't see yet, maybe a distant storm gathering over the waters, something we're going to need to rise up and face soon enough.

Book cover for Duende
Book cover for Duende

Buying options

“Quincy Troupe is a hoodoo soothsayer of poetry whose iconic riffs peal across each page as they peel back layers of America's history. Reader — open this hefty Duende potion of Jazz and sweat with caution, 'cause the swagger of each line might just drown you to save your life.”

“In this career-spanning collection, you don’t just read Quincy Troupe’s poetry: You are lifted by his word. You ride syllables and sound and glory. You grasp articulated root-working, know that you are traveling with mastery, the 'tongue’s edge, high-strung, at edge of the cliff.' That’s right. You understand there is no end to this man's brilliance.”

“Quincy Troupe’s Duende is a 'must have' collection of this poetry icon’s lifetime’s output of poetic truth telling, spell casting, melodic improvising, record keeping, tonal shape shifting, and spirit reckoning. And much more.”

“Hallelujah! There’s a hot new book from the peerless Quincy Troupe. Beyond his masterwork, Pursuit of Happyness, and his classic memoir on Miles Davis, Troupe has been celebrated for decades as a poet whose range enlarges the heart. Duende is this year’s comprehensive, must-read collection. Don’t miss the party.”

“Duende is an exuberant, full scale, magical tour through a life well-lived! Quincy’s mesmerizing rhythms and dazzling images nourish heart, mind and soul! I love this book!”

“Back when Quincy and I taught poetry writing in prisons on Riker’s Island, he was already not 'first person I' but 'eye' as he appears here in DuendeI in these blazing, unshackled, resounding poems. In other words, ego is checked by all that is beheld, all that the eye sees, condemns and celebrates in nonstop enumeration. This is pure imaginative freedom, this is poetry that can never be locked up or denied — it is music made by the eye and heart.”

“Reading through Quincy Troupe’s five decades of poetry is like listening to your favorite jazz musicians like John Coltrane, Sun Ra and of course, his friend Miles Davis to name a few. Just as you think you’ve caught one beat or hook of a melody and settle in, he moves in a different direction, a tangential line; each more colorful than the last, with more depth and more truth. He writes like the heartbeat of the earth speaking to our hearts.”

blog — January 11

Two Poems from Quincy Troupe, excerpted from “Duende: Poems 1966-Now”

To celebrate the publication of Duende: Poems 1966-Now, the collected poetry of Quincy Troupe, we're proud to share two poems from the new collection: "A Dirge for Michael Brown, Tamir Rice & Trayvon Martin," originally published in Seduction: New Poems 2013–2018, and "Eye Am Thinking of Moments," originally published in his 2006 collection titled Architecture of Lanugage.


where does life-force of breath go after flesh falls away from bone,
does it rest in the womb of memory, raise up its spirit inside
ghost voices recognized once as bodies carrying names of michael,
tamir, trayvon, so many other young black boys & girls with bright eyes, looking
into a future of dreams before being cut down by spitting lead,
fired into their spirits carrying their names in ferguson, cleveland,
chicago, florida, where do their spirits go after breath leaves them
suddenly beyond hearing love from their mother’s & father’s voices,
brothers & sisters too quaking grief, close friends

do they hear music now, a trumpet lick sweet as a sad kiss,
wailing over piano keys tickling lyrical disbelief, rain falling
on days when mallet drum beats echo footsteps soft as memory
when a trumpet voice hauntingly pierces flights of mourning’s
gloomy light, bird wings slicing through sadness of the day,
bass strings echoing echos, beneath dark aching words of a poet’s voice raising up
names of so many robbed of futures by spitting bullets stamped with their names,
           spitting bullets
shrieking like hornets, stamped with their names,

where will all this death take us beyond tears, weeping music, poetry
moaning words of a st. louie woman, how long will memory remember this fear,
these lost names stamped on faces of paper posters
nailed to trees, walls in soiled rooms splattered with blood
inside mourning houses for years carrying memories of young black faces with
sweet smiles, eyes bright as suns staring into a future
once possible with dreams, lost in an instant after death
fired from demons walking still amongst us now enter their brains,
how long will we keep these spirits warm with love inside our hearts, before
amnesia’s modern embrace obliterates time entombing
so many celebrated as martyrs now, yes, black lives do matter,
have always mattered here & now, each & every day,
every second, minute, every hour, yes, black lives do matter, alive

have always mattered, breathing, magical, beautiful, alive,
living does matter for those who know meaning lives here
when lungs take in breath, makes us whole, creative, does matter
when air is sweet beneath the sun, wondrous, magical as music, poetry,
yes, black lives do matter, all life matters every day light rises
with the sun, when we welcome the moon, shadows
wavering like wind-breath singing through leaves of trees swelling
with symphonies, voices, beautiful, powerful as choruses of blues tonguing
insinuation aching with puns, humor drawn
from black lives, inside songs, yes, black lives do matter
each day the sun blooms a trumpet voice within the coal skin of night,
where the moon shines in the eyes & mouth of a black child smiling
every moment in a trumpet voice piercing as the sun & moon
rising , breathing inside lungs inhaling, exhaling, the miracle

that is life, rising, falling, like pitches of music swelling with breath,
with beauty, black people breathing in the here & now every second,
every day, yes black lives do matter, living in a trumpet’s voice,
will always matter, singing in the air, will always matter
beautiful as we are, will always matter, breathing in this life
will always matter, yes, always, always, always

From Seduction: New Poems 2013–2018 (2019)


eye am thinking of moments when my thoughts run
free as twisting wild vines growing under the sun,
soft rain gathering new puddles around roots,
dew drops of crystal on flower petals, mist swelling
in the air, the sound of language percolating everywhere
music, the hum of creation improvising rhythms,
mysterious as soukougnans shedding human skin,
throwing off light, magic comes when you least expect it,
is a lewoz of drums, pippiree birds serenading, colibri eating
bananas, gwo kas speaking in seven-rhythms, time, bonda-butts
responding to deep ancestral memories, a dirge
becomes a kite, is a beautiful sight up there flying
free until a strong wind comes, breaks it apart,

like syllables of poems gone wrong, surfers on waves,
the mind miscalculates the power of rhythm,
the deep notion all things have, memories of their own magic,
to change directions, as when volcanoes explode, floods
take back space where fingers of its rivers once ran,
where water first came from, is as mysterious
as why tornadoes, hurricanes swirl across time, space, creating
conditions for their own destructive artistry, heard in the syllables
their winds bring, is a certain clarity inside their own savage beauty,
an indelible music in the ferocious howling gusts of rhythms
screaming frightening secrets throughout their lifetimes,
everywhere either of them passes dreams of men flung
stunned into the air, where they fly like beats of drums,

what do we know of ancient secrets, magic, pippiree birds
singing in the sweet, gathering sounds of evening,
bwa-kabritt crickets, large as small boulders screeching loud
as some scary, imagined zombies flying through the night
to bring us ancient cries predicting rain, sounding mating calls,
they land high up in leafy branches of trees, rooftops,
surrounded by darkness, what do we know, those of us blah-blah,
in violent, industrial cities, living on the run, zooming around
like bats out of hell, or crawling around our steel-encased homes
gridlocked on freeways like shoppers on a sale day at the mall,
or underground in subways smelling of pee, oil, & metal
what do we know of mofwazés, soukougnans shedding skin,
throwing off light, pippiree birds singing sweet love
songs of gwo-ka drums gathering lewoz rhythms,

magic can come when you least expect it, from anywhere,
mysterious as the sources of hurricanes, tornadoes, language
in the air percolates everywhere, music, like mist, suddenly there,
swelling here, blooming fresh as new flowers after soft rain drums
bonda-butts in to the air responding to ancestral memories

climbing from the earth, through the body, like duende
climbing from the earth, through the body, like duende

From Architecture of Language (2006)

Quincy Troupe

Poet, teacher, journalist Quincy Troupe is an alumnus of the Watts Writers Workshop and, along with his friends Ishmael Reed, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni and others, associated with the Black Arts Movement. He was named California's first poet laureate in 2002. Troupe's Miles: The Autobiography is considered a contemporary classic of musical artist biography. Among his many other books are his collaboration on the autobiography of Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness, which became a popular film starring Will Smith. He also wrote James Baldwin: The Legacy and Earl the Pearl: My Story by Earl Monroe and Quincy Troupe. Troupe has published many volumes of his poetry over the years and has also published several children's books.