Darktown Follies, Amaud Jamaul Johnson’s daring and surprising new collection of poems, responds to Black Vaudeville, specifically the personal and professional challenges African American variety performers faced in the early twentieth century. Johnson is fascinated by jokes that aren’t funny — particularly, what it means when humor fails or reveals something unintended about our national character. Darktown Follies is an act of self-sabotage, a poet’s willful attempt at recklessness, abandoning the “good sense” God gave him, as an effort to explore the boundaries and intersections of race and humor.
Born and raised in Compton, California, Amaud Jamaul Johnson was educated at Howard University and Cornell University. His first book, Red Summer (Tupelo, 2006), was winner of the Dorset Prize. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, his honors include fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Hurston/Wright Foundation, and Cave Canem. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.