`GO back to Jamaica and take your drugs with you!" the man
yelled from his car at Quincy Troupe, who had been taking a stroll
along Euclid Avenue in St. Louis' Central West End.
It is ironically emblematic that these harsh words were
directed at the author and poet, for much of his writing deals with
the need to overcome such hurtful stereotypes. Race, music, family
and his hometown of St. Louis also figure prominently in Troupe's
Troupe's writing dates back to when he wrote and illustrated
his own comic books as a child. He regrets that at the time "no
black people in St. Louis were encouraged to do a thing about
becoming a writer." Confronted by the conservative and racist
attitudes of 1950s St. Louis, Troupe felt that he needed to leave
He recalls: "I always knew I did not want to remain in St.
Louis. I was not going to stay in St. Louis for the rest of my
Troupe found his way out of St. Louis when he left for
Grambling College (now Grambling State University). After college,
Troupe went to France, where he played on the All-Army basketball
team. Sidelined with a knee injury, he wrote approximately two
pages of a novel about a black man living in France, which he
describes as "awesomely bad."
A French woman whom Troupe was dating mentioned that her family
knew philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre and perhaps could set
up a rendezvous.
Troupe relates, "I didn't know who Jean-Paul Sartre was, this
little guy with owl eyes and glasses. I remember him telling me
that he hated poetry, but that I should write poetry. And then, lo
and behold, I found out that I really, really liked it."
Troupe has come a long way as a poet since he started carrying
a notebook around Paris in the early 1960s. His fifth collection of
poems, "Avalanche," is in the bookstores. The title of the book
came about after Troupe read one of his poems to author K. Curtis
Lyle, who responded, "Man, this is like an avalanche."
The structure of the book mirrors the stages of an avalanche.
Troupe says that "the first section in this book is introduced by
this cracking, this cacophonous language coming at you in a rush.
Then after that rush is over, the second part of an avalanche is
when everything is trying to settle. So the second section is a
group of poems that are up and down like that. After that is over
with, there is this third stage of an avalanche where everything is
quiet and you have a new landscape. So the poems in that section
Troupe, who received an American Book Award in 1990 for
co-authoring "Miles: The Autobiography," is finishing "The Genius
of Miles Davis," due to be out early next year. In his second book
on Davis, Troupe uses the forms of historical essay and personal
memoir to explore the musical genius of the legendary trumpeter
from East St. Louis.
Troupe contends that "what made Miles a genius was the focus,
the risk-taking, also ability. He was a great synthesizer of
styles. In other words, he was a great sponge. He could sponge
everything: rock 'n' roll, blues, gospel, jazz, popular music.
"Beyond that, his uncanny genius of selecting sidemen. He had
the ability to pick and see great musicians before they were great.
They were always younger and they would push him forward."
Troupe uses his hometown as the primary backdrop for his first
novel, "The Footman Chronicles. …