This is an image of a cover of a soft-bound book with an illustration of a man holding a mask over his face.
Earth Life



Self-published (1st Edition)


A poet and performer known for his political edge, Essex Hemphill openly addressed race, identity, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and the family in his work, voicing issues central to the African American gay community. His first collections of poems were the self-published chapbooks Earth Life (1985) and Conditions (1986). His first full-length collection, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry (1992), won the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award. His work is included in the anthologies Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time (1986) and Life Sentences: Writers, Artists, and AIDS (1993).

In 1983, Hemphill participated in the performance poetry group Cinque with Wayson Jones and Larry Duckette; their work was later featured in the documentaries “Tongues Untied” (1989) and “Black Is … Black Ain’t” (1994).

Hemphill died of complications from AIDS in 1995.


Work by Essex Hemphill