Milwaukee Rapper-Poet Returns to Woodland Pattern
Milwaukee native Derrick Harriell’s contemporary poems echo with stanzas both emotionally raw and lyrically moving, taking inspiration from his time in the hip-hop group Black Elephant in the early 2000s. Since his days as the wordsmith behind a popular local rap group, Harriell has completed his doctorate in English at UW-Milwaukee, worked as the poetry editor for The Cream City Review literary magazine and currently serves as director of the Master of Fine Arts-Creative Writing Program and assistant professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi.
His poetry has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and in his third complete collection, Stripper in Wonderland, the poems pulse with a musical energy as they explore complex topics (including death, racism and religion) by employing a heavy funk influence. Each dynamic poem is filled with surprising imagery and a strong musical cadence, revealing personal memories of Harriell’s childhood in Milwaukee and his current life in the Deep South.
Harriell’s second book of poetry, Ropes, which was awarded the 2014 Poetry Award by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, took inspiration from the lives of black boxers in a fascinating and fluid ode to pugilism. In his new compilation, the accomplished poet again uses bewitching and at times graphic imagery to summon the ghosts of his past and confront the harsh realities of the present day. In Stripper in Wonderland, this locally raised writer beautifully ponders multi-layered questions of gender, addiction and reality through the lens of a whimsical wonderland.
Derrick Harriell returns to Milwaukee to perform a free live reading at Woodland Pattern Book Center, 720 E. Locust St., at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 6.