Nigger for Life wins Praise and Awards

Three years ago when he launched his debut poetry collection, Nigger for Life, Dr Neal Hall hoped for the best but surely could not have anticipated that it would have garnered the international acclaim and awards that have been heaped on it since then.

A graduate of Cornell and Harvard Universities and a respected ophthalmologist, Dr Hall’s poems are a cri de coeur against racial injustice in America and underlines the deep sense of betrayal he feels because, in his view, Blacks in the US have not truly emerged from slavery and racial oppression.

“That which you call our history is still our daily collective reality,” he insists, adding, “Though we do not find ourselves toiling in cotton fields, we are, however, still on a color-coded exploitative plantation; a color-coded exploitation that, despite all that we may accomplish, reminds us of and puts us in our place. And in doing so, it limits our access to true freedom and equality, despite our advanced degrees.” Hall urges White America to face up to the reality that the relative advantages they enjoy as a social group are made possible by an inherently racist system, whether or not they engage in racist behaviour directly.

Nigger for Life is written, for the most part, in free verse and uses the Protest Poetry format, reminiscent of that used by many early African-American writers and some of South Africa’s major poets in their fight for social and political change. It ventures into what is still a touchy and sometimes taboo area in ‘Unspoken America,” and is clearly designed to shock readers into political action.

Dr Cornel West, a professor at Princeton University and one of America’s foremost intellectuals, hails Hall as “a warrior of the spirit” and “a warrior of the mind,” adding that his poetry “has the capacity to change ordinary people’s philosophy on social and racial issues.”

James Villarreal, author and TV host said, “When he was recently honoured as the first author ever to speak at the newly opened Black Writer’s Museum in Philadelphia, Dr. Hall spoke with such clarity, dignity and vision that my mind easily heard a new, more intellectual Martin Luther King Jr. with the urgency of a Malcolm. Leaders don’t die; they are replaced.”

Dr. Hall has been a featured poet and guest on numerous radio talk shows, and literary and poetry blogs throughout the U.S., Western Europe and Caribbean.

In May he was a featured poet at the Langston Hughes Community Library, Queens, NY and was also a feature guest poet for Black History Month hosted by the Cornell University Black Student Union Association, Cornell University.

Dr. Hall also received a 2011-2012 National Black Authors Tour Distinguished Honor Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to Black Literature.  In addition, he was honoured for his work in the Journal of Pan African Studies, 2010 Poetry Issue (Volume 4 No 2).

Conversation Magazine named Nigger For Life among the top 10 Best Poetry Books for 2012.

Nigger For Life has been reviewed in several online literary magazines and academic review journals, including Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World: A Review Journal (PDF, page 73),  the Hiram Poetry Review, People With Voices and The Black Bottom.

Dr Hall receives the 2012 New York Book Festival first prize for poetry

Earlier this year, Dr. Hall won the 2012 New York Book Festival first prize for poetry. The judges said Nigger For Life is “a vibrant, raw, spellbinding and compelling work of poetry,” adding Neal Hall “is a voice to be watched.”

He was also the 2012 Hollywood Book Festival runner-up in the “wild card” category. The festival spotlights literature worthy of further consideration by the entertainment industry. Winners were selected on their story-telling ability and the potential of the work to be translated into other forms of media.

Further adding to his accolades, Dr. Hall has been invited to be a featured reader and presenter at the 9th International Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali, Indonesia.  The festival brings together “an eclectic, staggeringly diverse host of writers and readers” from around the globe, including China, India and other parts of Asia, Europe, Russia, North and South America, the UK, Japan, Egypt, Australia and New Zealand.

To date, Nigger for Life has been procured by and housed in numerous libraries including:

  • The Poetry Library, London, England
  • Andersonian Library, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland
  • Poets House, a national poetry library and literary center, NY, NY
  • University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus
  • The Black Writers Museum, Philadelphia, PA
  • University of Manchester’s Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, Manchester, UK.
  • Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

Also worthy of note is the fact that Dr Hall has made it this far on his own steam and without any help from a traditional publisher. His book was self published. He financed the editing, publication and distribution and promotes it through his website www.surgeonpoet.com and other forums.

I asked him about his experience so far and how readers have been responding to the book. Following is his response.

How would you describe your experience so far?

Dr Hall: I have come to find that there are few joys greater than the joy I experienced from the empty page’s willingness to listen to and be filled by what I feel, think and say or write.

There are few things as liberating as being able to find, refine or define, on an empty page’s willingness to listen, one’s truth; to have the empty page become your refuge, your true savior, your sanity in a world full of deceit and insanity.

And add to that the affirmation and acclaim of friends, well wishers, talk radio, university/poetry libraries, literary blogs, reviews and festivals – it is inspiring, beyond belief.  I am indeed honored and humbled.

What feedback have you been getting from readers?

Dr Hall: Prior to publishing Nigger For Life, I had the pleasure of sitting with Prof. Cornel West in his Princeton University office where he informed me that Nigger For Life had “ the capacity to change ordinary people’s philosophy on social and racial issues.”   His words were prophetic.

I would never have imaged the profound impact it has had on readers and followers from around the world.

Rather than try and speak for those readers and supporters, I thought it best if I provided a few excerpts representative of Prof. West’s prophecy:

Congratulations.   To be honest, I don’t like some of your opinions about white people and would like to say they’re not so, but if I’m honest I can’t say that.   I have to admit that a lot of what you say is true, and I’m very sorry it is and sorry for any bad experiences you have had.    As I’ve told you, I think your accomplishments are to be praised and I have always thought you were terrific.” Dr. Hall’s Childhood Paediatrician.

Honestly, I am not sure if I would have picked up a book of poetry at the store, especially a book with such a controversial title, but a friend spoke highly of it, so I picked it up. I think I read the whole book from cover to cover over an entire day – I could not put it down! It’s not often that you actually “believe” an author; believe his pain, believe his story, his strength, his determination. I can hear the pain in the voice of Dr. Hall and I think it echoes the pain of Dr. King and Malcolm X. This is the type of book that needs to be studied, re-read, and taught at Contemporary African American literature classes. What a find!

“You are a downright honest and courageous poet, Neal: your words spring forth to heal centuries old invisible wounds in all of our souls.  You may think you wrote those poems for yourself, but you wrote them for all of us — You are an amazing poet! “

“My brother and I are constantly telling people about you and your book — you need to get one to Michael Baisden on WDAS — Google him and check it out, my friend!  Your book could seriously help the world take a closer look at racism – maybe even change the world!”

“As a white professional, I find Dr. Hall’s writing to be like a ‘dagger’ – evocative, poignant, HONEST.”

“Neal. You give so much of yourself in your writings and, in so doing, you give us pause to look squarely at that foe that insidiously lives among us, racism. “

“Stirring — its powerful…causes one to think…does not allow one to be satisfied with what seems to be…. Profoundly speaks to the human spirit.

“I am telling everyone about this book.  Many probably will not be able to handle it because they are in denial.  Thank you for this powerful contribution.”

“This is a stunning and impressive poetry collection that calls into question America’s view of itself as a society that has become more racially tolerant, and even challenges the wave of optimism that swept through the country following the election of the USA’s first Black President. I found many of the poems quite hard-hitting and I was particularly impressed by Dr. Hall’s intellectual and emotional honesty, his skillful wordplay and the subtle way he gets beneath your guard and forces you to put your preconceptions about race to the test. I would go as far as suggesting that ‘ Nigger For Life ’ is a must read for anyone who wants to get a sense of why African-Americans continue to have deep-seated concerns and skepticism about race relations in America, and why overcoming racism may not be as simple – or as assured – as some may think.”

“A quick note to commend you for your courage and wherewithal to expose the America as it exists instead of how the dominant culture wishes to believe. I have many friends and family who swear they have no “racist” beliefs; however, when asked if–all things being equal–they would prefer to be born “white” or “black” the answer if either hesitation or silence, red faces all around.“

“Nigger for Life is by far one of the most compelling, touching, and vigorously passionate books I have ever read. Dr. Hall’s courage and motivation is unfathomable as he reedits the Declaration of Independence, which instill in me, a sense of resentment against authority. Never once did I think of race, politics and democracy in a negative light until I turned the last page of this book. Nigger for Life has made me come to realize that everything is corrupt, the world we live in, the people we follow and even ourselves. We have been brainwashed into thinking that we are equal, under oneness, when in actuality the truth is the complete opposite. But then again what is the truth? Dr. Hall raises this perceptive point also. Truth is based on years of lies and mistrust and how “to keep truth afloat in a wide open sea of lies.” It is scary to think that the world is filled with more lies than truth, more hatred than love, and overall more corruptness than realness. Dr. Hall speaks much about progress, in fact this whole book illustrates the lack of progress this country has made and how unbelievably pathetic it is that we can call it free.”

“Dr. Neal Hall, we see the power in your poetry. As a human rights group, we appreciate your insight into race, equality, dignity and justice. As you may know, here in Ireland, minority groups especially immigrants suffer basically the same thing despite the Irish history of mass emigration in the face of poverty and suffering. We look forward to following your writings and possibly sharing our experience from across the Atlantic.”

Do you have any more literary projects in the pipeline?

Dr Hall: I’ve just completed my second book of verse titled Winter’s A’ Coming Still. Its poetic insights reflect vividly that the more things are said to change, the more things are made to stay the same.

Its poetic revelations reflect vividly that there is no post-racial America, no just America. There is just racist America.

Winter’s A’ Coming Still will be available only at www.surgeonpoet.com in October 2012.

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6 responses to “Nigger for Life wins Praise and Awards

  1. Thank you for giving us an update about Nigger for Life. The accolades and awards bestowed upon the book are well-deserved and accurately recognize a profound and noteworthy literally work. Your featuring of Dr. Hall’s work of art bears out the prophecy of its relevance and importance as “compelling” and “poignant” commentary on “race, equality, dignity and justice”. The extraordinary artwork of this “amazing poet” merits the re-review you granted it, as Nigger for Life is a timeless poetry book.

  2. Dr. Hall deserves all the accolades heaped upon him. I am so proud of having a signed copy of ‘Nigger for Life’ which has become quite dog-eared from the amount of usage it has had. Dr. Hall is so forthright in what he writes, with no fear or favour and I admire and respect him greatly.
    Thanks Tony, for bringing him to my attention three years ago, and thanks for having your finger on the pulse of black writers.

  3. Dear Tony,
    Please accept my apology for I am not a writer nor can I provide you with such refined or poetic expression. I am honored and proud to be the keeper of two signed copies of “Nigger for Life”. Dr. Hall is a dear friend as well as my physician, and teacher. Being white, american and female his poems have hit home and have brought out my most hidden emotions. I have been and continue to be surrounded by racist family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. I, however, was never a racist. Not until I met Dr. Hall. His mission to teach and share his knowledge, his pain, his desire to confront us with the truths about our racists selves created an enlightment for me. I have always been a closet racist. Feeling his pain and imagining his tears behind his intellectual strength made me realize what a humble soldier he is.
    Because of “Nigger for Life” I have received and continue to receive an incredible education in the behavior of man and our mission to destroy a race. Our black race. Dr Hall has truly changed my vision. I can see this disease more clearly now.
    Thank you for allowing this opportunity to express my emotions.

  4. Dr. Hall has been and continues to be an inspiration to me in my pursuit of truth. He filters out all the layers of deception to enlighten his audience with only the purest form of honesty. I thank Dr. Hall for opening my eyes to the extent of injustice among us and for having candid conversations with me about all those topics considered taboo in our society. A lot of which seem to stem from the racism and sexism and all the other “-isms” in which we are inextricably steeped.

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