Jeffery Allen

Jeffery Renard Allen

Charlottesville, VA

Jeffery Renard Allen is the author of the novel Song of the Shank published byGraywolf Press in 2014, which is about the nineteenth century musical prodigy Blind Tom. The novel was his Creative Capital project, and won the CMLP Firecracker Award, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and is nominated for the Dublin Literary Prize. Allen is also the author of the novel Rails Under My Back, the story collection Holding Pattern, and two poetry collections, Stellar Places and Harbors and Spirits. A Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, Allen has received the Whiting Writer’s Award, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and is a former fellow of the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Song of the Shank

Jeffery Renard Allen

Artist Bio

Song of the Shank is a novel based on the life of fabled 19th-century African American pianist and singer Blind Tom. An innovator who used his instrument beyond its inventors’ intentions, Blind Tom embodied the contradictions faced by many African American artists throughout history. By some accounts the highest paid musician of his time, he was also often exploited by club owners and managers with whom he worked. Song of the Shank is written in a style that mimics music improvisation, shifting often among character, narration, past tense and present tense. Within the novel, Blind Tom’s lack of vision becomes a metaphor for both the writer and reader’s inability to hear him play, as he was never captured on recording.

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