a trembling inside the both of us,
there's a trembling, inside us both.
The territory of Reconnaissance is one where morals threaten to become merely "what the light falls through," "suffering [seems] in fact for nothing," and "all we do is maybe all we can do." In the face of this, Carl Phillips, reconsidering and unraveling what we think we know, maps out the contours of a world in revision, where truth lies captured at one moment and at the next goes free, transformed. These are poems of searing beauty, lit by hope and shadowed by it, from a poet whose work "reinstates the possibility of finding meaning in a world that is forever ready to revoke the sources of meaning in our lives" (Jonathan Farmer, Slate).
In Silverchest, his twelfth book, Carl Phillips considers how our fears and excesses, the damage we cause both to others and to ourselves, intentional and not, can lead not only to a kind of wisdom but also to renewal, maybe even joy, if we're willing to commit fully to a life in which "I love you / means what, exactly?" In poems shot through with his signature mix of eros, restless energy, and moral scrutiny, Phillips argues for the particular courage it takes to look at the self squarely—not with judgment but with understanding—and extend that self more honestly toward others. It's a risk, there's a lot to lose, but if it's true that "we'll drown anyway—why not / in color?"
* Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry * Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism * Winner of the NAACP Image Award * Winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize * Winner of the PEN Open Book Award *
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR:
The New Yorker, Boston Globe, The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, NPR. Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, Slate, Time Out New York, Vulture, Refinery 29, and many more . . .
A provocative meditation on race, Claudia Rankine's long-awaited follow up to her groundbreaking book Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric.
Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person's ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named "post-race" society.
“What has restlessness been for?”
In Wild Is the Wind, Carl Phillips reflects on love as depicted in the jazz standard for which the book is named—love at once restless, reckless, and yet desired for its potential to bring stability. In the process, he pitches estrangement against communion, examines the past as history versus the past as memory, and reflects on the past’s capacity both to teach and to mislead us—also to make us hesitate in the face of love, given the loss and damage that are, often enough, love’s fallout. How “to say no to despair”? How to take perhaps that greatest risk, the risk of believing in what offers no guarantee? These poems that, in their wedding of the philosophical, meditative, and lyric modes, mark a new stage in Phillips’s remarkable work, stand as further proof that “if Carl Phillips had not come onto the scene, we would have needed to invent him. His idiosyncratic style, his innovative method, and his unique voice are essential steps in the evolution of the craft” (Judith Kitchen, The Georgia Review).
"Like something broken of wing,
Other than breathing's rise, catch,
a silence, as of some especially wounded
animal that, nevertheless, still
you can see
straight through the open
eye to where instinct falters because
for once it has come
--from "Chamber Music"
In the art of falconry, during training the tether between the gloved fist and the raptor's anklets is gradually lengthened and eventually unnecessary. In these new lyric poems, Carl Phillips considers the substance of connection -- between lover and beloved, mind and body, talon and perch -- and its the cable of mutual trust between soaring figure and shadowed ground. Contemporary literature can perhaps claim no poetry more clearly allegorical than that of Carl Phillips, whose four collections have turned frequently to nature, myth, and history for illustration; still, readers know the primary attributes of his work to be its physicality, grace, and disarming honesty about desire and faith. In The Tether, his fifth book, Phillips's characteristically cascading poetic line is leaner and more dramatic than ever.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Thus begins “Phenomenal Woman,” just one of the beloved poems collected here in Maya Angelou’s third book of verse. These poems are powerful, distinctive, and fresh—and, as always, full of the lifting rhythms of love and remembering. And Still I Rise is written from the heart, a celebration of life as only Maya Angelou has discovered it.
“It is true poetry she is writing,” M.F.K. Fisher has observed, “not just rhythm, the beat, rhymes. I find it very moving and at times beautiful. It has an innate purity about it, unquenchable dignity. . . . It is astounding, flabbergasting, to recognize it, in all the words I read every day and night . . . it gives me heart, to hear so clearly the caged bird singing and to understand her notes.”
These four poems, “Phenomenal Woman,” “Still I Rise,” “Weekend Glory,” and “Our Grandmothers,” are among the most remembered and acclaimed of Maya Angelou's poems. They celebrate women with a majesty that has inspired and touched the hearts of millions.
“Phenomenal Woman” is a phenomenal poem that speaks to us of where we are as women at the dawn of a new century. In a clear voice, Maya Angelou vividly reminds us of our towering strength and beauty.
Comparing any human life to "a restless choir" of impulses variously in conflict and at peace with one another, Carl Phillips, in his eleventh book, examines the double shadow that a life casts forth: "now risk, and now / faintheartedness." In poems that both embody and inhabit this double shadow, risk and faintheartedness prove to have the power equally to rescue us from ourselves and to destroy us. Spare, haunted, and haunting, yet not without hope, Double Shadow argues for life as a wilderness through which there's only the questing forward—with no regrets and no looking back.
Double Shadow is a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry
Winner of the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry
A Boston Globe Best Poetry Book of 2011
I can see, is that of any number of late
afternoons I remember still: how the light
seemed a bell; how it seemed I'd been living
insider it, waiting - I'd heard all about
that one clear note it gives.
--from "Late Apollo III"
In The Rest of Love, his seventh book, Carl Phillips examines the conflict between belief and disbelief, and our will to believe: Aren't we always trying, Phillips asks, to contain or to stave off facing up to, even briefly, the hard truths we're nevertheless attracted to? Phillips's signature terse line and syntax enact this constant tension between abandon and control; following his impeccable interior logic, "passionately austere" (Rita Dove, The Washington Post Book World), Phillips plumbs the myths we make and return to in the name of desire--physical, emotional, and spiritual.
The Rest of Love is a 2004 National Book Award Finalist for Poetry.
The poems in this collection were chosen by Hughes himself shortly before his death in 1967 and represent work from his entire career, including "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "The Weary Blues," "Still Here," "Song for a Dark Girl," "Montage of a Dream Deferred," and "Refugee in America." It gives us a poet of extraordinary range, directness, and stylistic virtuosity.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Throughout her illustrious career in letters, Maya Angelou gifted, healed, and inspired the world with her words. Now the beauty and spirit of those words live on in this new and complete collection of poetry that reflects and honors the writer’s remarkable life.
Every poetic phrase, every poignant verse can be found within the pages of this sure-to-be-treasured volume—from her reflections on African American life and hardship in the compilation Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ’fore I Diiie (“Though there’s one thing that I cry for / I believe enough to die for / That is every man’s responsibility to man”) to her revolutionary celebrations of womanhood in the poem “Still I Rise” (“Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise / Up from a past that’s rooted in pain / I rise”) to her “On the Pulse of Morning” tribute at President William Jefferson Clinton’s inauguration (“Lift up your eyes upon / The day breaking for you. / Give birth again / To the dream.”).
Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry also features her final long-form poems, including “A Brave and Startling Truth,” “Amazing Peace,” “His Day Is Done,” and the honest and endearing Mother:
“I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever”
This collection also includes the never-before-published poem “Amazement Awaits,” commissioned for the 2008 Olympic Games:
“We are here at the portal of the world we had wished for
At the lintel of the world we most need.
We are here roaring and singing.
We prove that we can not only make peace, we can bring it with us.”
Timeless and prescient, this definitive compendium will warm the hearts of Maya Angelou’s most ardent admirers as it introduces new readers to the legendary poet, activist, and teacher—a phenomenal woman for the ages.
In seven insightful essays, Carl Phillips meditates on the craft of poetry, its capacity for making a space for possibility and inquiry. What does it mean to give shapelessness a form? How can a poem explore both the natural world and the inner world? Phillips demonstrates the restless qualities of the imagination by reading and examining poems by Ashbery, Bogan, Frost, Niedecker, Shakespeare, and others, and by considering other art forms, such as photography and the blues. The Art of Daring is a lyrical, persuasive argument for the many ways that writing and living are acts of risk. "I think it's largely the conundrum of being human that makes us keep making," Phillips writes. "I think it has something to do with revision—how, not only is the world in constant revision, but each of us is, as well."
“[Smith's] poems are enriched to the point of volatility, but they pay out, often, in sudden joy.”—The New Yorker
Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality—the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood—and a diagnosis of HIV positive. “Some of us are killed / in pieces,” Smith writes, “some of us all at once.” Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America—“Dear White America”—where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.
--the words to the song--leave him, as he
lets each go, the wind carrying most of it,
some of the words, falling, settling into
instead that larger darkness, where the smaller
darknesses that our lives were lie softly down."
--from "Riding Westward"
What happens when the world as we've known it becomes divided, when the mind becomes less able--or less willing--to distinguish reality from what is desired? In Riding Westward, Carl Phillips wields his celebrated gifts for syntax and imagery that are unmistakably his own--speculative, athletic, immediate--as he confronts moral crisis. What is the difference, he asks, between good and evil, cruelty and instruction, risk and trust? Against the backdrop of the natural world, Phillips pitches the restlessness of what it means to be human, as he at once deepens and extends a meditation on that space where the forces of will and imagination collide with sexual and moral conduct.
Hip hop is a distinctive form of black art in America-from Tupac to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Kendrick Lamar, hip hop has long given voice to the African American experience. As scholar and cultural critic Tricia Rose argues, hip hop, in fact, has become one of the primary ways we talk about race in the United States.
But hip hop is in crisis. For years, the most commercially successful hip hop has become increasingly saturated with caricatures of black gangstas, thugs, pimps, and hos. This both represents and feeds a problem in black American culture. Or does it? In The Hip-Hop Wars, Rose explores the most crucial issues underlying the polarized claims on each side of the debate: Does hip hop cause violence, or merely reflect a violent ghetto culture? Is hip hop sexist, or are its detractors simply anti-sex? Does the portrayal of black culture in hip hop undermine black advancement?
A potent exploration of a divisive and important subject, The Hip Hop Wars concludes with a call for the regalvanization of the progressive and creative heart of hip hop. What Rose calls for is not a sanitized vision of the form, but one that more accurately reflects a much richer space of culture, politics, anger, and yes, sex, than the current ubiquitous images in sound and video currently provide.
Wind as a face gone red with blowing,
oceans whose end is broken stitchery--
swim of sea-dragon, dolphin,
shimmer-and-coil, invitation. . . . You Know
the kind of map I mean. Countries as
distant as they are believable . . .
Carl Phillips lyric explorations of longing and devotion, castigation and mercy, are unrivaled in contemporary poetry.
Here, in his sixth book, Phillips visits those spaces, both physical and psychological, where risk and safety coincide, and considers what it might mean to live at the nexus of the two. Sifting among the upturned evidence of crisis, from Roman Empire to westward expansion, from the turn of a lover's face to the harbor of the book's title--a place of calm fashioned of the very rock that can mean disaster--these poems negotiate and map out the impulse toward rescue and away from it. Phillips's pooling, cascading lines are the unsuppressed routes across his unique poetic landscape, daring and seductive in their readiness to drift and reverse as the terrain demands.
In a new introduction to the work, the poet and editor Kevin Young suggests that Hughes from this very first moment is “celebrating, critiquing, and completing the American dream,” and that he manages to take Walt Whitman’s American “I” and write himself into it. We find here not only such classics as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and the great twentieth-century anthem that begins “I, too, sing America,” but also the poet’s shorter lyrics and fancies, which dream just as deeply. “Bring me all of your / Heart melodies,” the young Hughes offers, “That I may wrap them / In a blue cloud-cloth / Away from the too-rough fingers / Of the world.”
From the Hardcover edition.
With her signature eloquence and heartfelt appreciation, renowned poet and national treasure Maya Angelou celebrates the first woman we ever knew: Mother. “You were always the heart of happiness to me,” she acknowledges in this loving tribute, “Bringing nougats of glee / Sweets of open laughter.”
From the beginnings of this profound relationship through teenage rebellion and, finally, to adulthood, where we stand to inherit timeless maternal wisdom, Angelou praises the patience, knowledge, and compassion of this remarkable parent.
One of Oprah Magazine's "Ten Best Books of 2017"
"This singular poetry collection is a dynamic meditation on the experience of, and societal narratives surrounding, contemporary black womanhood. . . . These exquisite poems defy categorization." —The New YorkerThe only thing more beautiful than Beyoncé is God, and God is a black woman sipping rosé and drawing a lavender bath, texting her mom, belly-laughing in the therapist’s office, feeling unloved, being on display, daring to survive. Morgan Parker stands at the intersections of vulnerability and performance, of desire and disgust, of tragedy and excellence. Unrelentingly feminist, tender, ruthless, and sequined, these poems are an altar to the complexities of black American womanhood in an age of non-indictments and deja vu, and a time of wars over bodies and power. These poems celebrate and mourn. They are a chorus chanting: You’re gonna give us the love we need.
Watch for the new collection of poetry from Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, coming in June of 2018
In his fourth collection, Terrance Hayes investigates how we construct experience. With one foot firmly grounded in the everyday and the other hovering in the air, his poems braid dream and reality into a poetry that is both dark and buoyant. Cultural icons as diverse as Fela Kuti, Harriet Tubman, and Wallace Stevens appear with meditations on desire and history. We see Hayes testing the line between story and song in a series of stunning poems inspired by the Pecha Kucha, a Japanese presentation format. This innovative collection presents the light- headedness of a mind trying to pull against gravity and time. Fueled by an imagination that enlightens, delights, and ignites, Lighthead leaves us illuminated and scorched.
In His Day is Done, Angelou delivers an authentically heartfelt and elegant tribute to Mandela, who stood as David to the mighty Goliath of Apartheid and who, after twenty-seven years of unjust imprisonment on the notorious Robben Island, emerged with “His stupendous heart intact / His gargantuan will / Hale and hearty” to lead his people into a new era.
This poignant work of gratitude and remembrance offers condolences to the resilient people of South Africa on the loss of their beloved “Madiba” and celebrates a man like no other, whose life and work changed the world.
Praise for His Day Is Done
“Moving and heartfelt.”—The Washington Post
“A powerful, gripping tribute.”—NewsOne
“[His Day Is Done captures] how many were feeling.”—BBC News
From the Hardcover edition.
It has produced generations of artists who have revolutionized their genre(s) by applying the aesthetic innovations of the culture. The BreakBeat Poets features 78 poets, born somewhere between 1961-1999, All-City and Coast-to-Coast, who are creating the next and now movement(s) in American letters.
The BreakBeat Poets is for people who love Hip-Hop, for fans of the culture, for people who've never read a poem, for people who thought poems were only something done by dead white dudes who got lost in a forest, and for poetry heads. This anthology is meant to expand the idea of who a poet is and what a poem is for.
The BreakBeat Poets are the scribes recording and remixing a fuller spectrum of experience of what it means to be alive in this moment. The BreakBeat Poets are a break with the past and an honoring of the tradition(s), an undeniable body expanding the canon for the fresher.
“Linguistically acrobatic [and] beautifully crafted. . . [Jamaal May's] poems, exquisitely balanced by a sharp intelligence mixed with earnestness, makes his debut a marvel.” —Publishers Weekly
“The elegant and laconic intelligence in these poems, their skepticism and bent humor and deliberately anti-Romantic stance toward experience are completely refreshing. After so much contemporary writing that seems all flash, no mind and no heart, these poems show how close observation of the world and a gift for plain-spoken, but eloquent speech, can give to poetry both dignity and largeness of purpose, and do it in an idiom that is pitch perfect to emotional nuance and fine intellectual distinctions. Hard-headed and tough-minded, Hum is the epitome of what Frost meant by ‘a fresh look and a fresh listen.’” —Tom Sleigh
"Jamaal May’s debut collection, Hum, is concerned with what’s beneath the surfaces of things—the unseen that eats away at us or does the work of sustaining us. Reading these poems, I was reminded of Ellison’s ‘lower frequencies,’ a voice speaking for us all. May has a fine ear, acutely attuned to the sonic textures of everyday experience. And Hum—a meditation on the machinery of living, an extended ode to sound and silence—is a compelling debut.” —Natasha Trethewey
"In his percussive debut collection Hum, Jamaal May offers a salve for our phobias and restores the sublime to the urban landscape. Whether you need a friend to confide in, a healer to go to, or a tour guide to take you there, look no further. That low hum you hear are these poems, emanating both wisdom and swagger.” —A. Van Jordan
From "Mechanophobia: Fear of Machines":
There is no work left for the husks.
Automated welders like us,
your line replacements, can't expect
sympathy after our bright
arms of cable rust over. So come
collect us for scrap, grind us up
in the mouth of one of us.
Let your hand pry at the access
panel with the edge of a knife,
silencing the motor and thrum.
Jamaal May is a poet, editor, and filmmaker from Detroit, MI where he taught poetry in public schools and worked as a freelance audio engineer and touring performer. His poetry won the 2013 Indiana Review Poetry Prize and appears in journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, The Believer, NER, and The Kenyon Review. Jamaal has earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College as well as fellowships from Cave Canem and The Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He founded the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press.
NPR'S MOST ANTICIPATED POETRY BOOKS OF 2017
A striking, full-length debut collection from Virgin Islands-born poet Nicole Sealey
The existential magnitude, deep intellect, and playful subversion of St. Thomas-born, Florida-raised poet Nicole Sealey’s work is restless in its empathic, succinct examination and lucid awareness of what it means to be human.
The ranging scope of inquiry undertaken in Ordinary Beast—at times philosophical, emotional, and experiential—is evident in each thrilling twist of image by the poet. In brilliant, often ironic lines that move from meditation to matter of fact in a single beat, Sealey’s voice is always awake to the natural world, to the pain and punishment of existence, to the origins and demises of humanity. Exploring notions of race, sexuality, gender, myth, history, and embodiment with profound understanding, Sealey’s is a poetry that refuses to turn a blind eye or deny. It is a poetry of daunting knowledge.
Watch for the new collection of poetry from Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, coming in June of 2018
Terrance Hayes is an elegant and adventurous writer with disarming humor, grace, tenderness, and brilliant turns of phrase. He is very much interested in what it means to be an artist and a black man. In his first collection, Muscular Music, he took the reader through a living library of cultural icons, from Shaft and Fat Albert to John Coltrane and Miles Davis. His second collection, Hip Logic, continued these explorations of popular culture, fatherhood, cultural heritage, and loss. Wind in a Box, Hayes’s resonant new collection, continues his interest in how traditions (of poetry and culture alike) can be simultaneously upended and embraced. The struggle for freedom (the wind) within containment (the box) is the unifying motif as Hayes explores how identity is shaped by race, heritage, and spirituality. This new book displays not only what the Los Angeles Times calls the range of a "bold virtuoso," but also the imaginative fervor of a poet in love with poetry.
Winner, 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
Winner, 2018 BCALA Best Poetry Award
Winner, 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Winner, Abel Meeropol Award for Social Justice
Finalist, Neustadt International Prize for Literature
Finalist, 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
One of the most magnetic and esteemed poets in today’s literary landscape, Patricia Smith fearlessly confronts the tyranny against the black male body and the tenacious grief of mothers in her compelling new collection, Incendiary Art. She writes an exhaustive lament for mothers of the "dark magicians," and revisits the devastating murder of Emmett Till. These dynamic sequences serve as a backdrop for present-day racial calamities and calls for resistance. Smith embraces elaborate and eloquent language— "her gorgeous fallen son a horrid hidden / rot. Her tiny hand starts crushing roses—one by one / by one she wrecks the casket’s spray. It’s how she / mourns—a mother, still, despite the roar of thorns"— as she sharpens her unerring focus on incidents of national mayhem and mourning. Smith envisions, reenvisions, and ultimately reinvents the role of witness with an incendiary fusion of forms, including prose poems, ghazals, sestinas, and sonnets. With poems impossible to turn away from, one of America’s most electrifying writers reveals what is frightening, and what is revelatory, about history.
"Linguistically acrobatic [and] beautifully crafted. . . . [Jamaal May's] poems, exquisitely balanced by a sharp intelligence mixed with earnestness, makes his debut a marvel."—Publishers Weekly
Following Jamaal May's award-winning debut collection, Hum (2013), these new poems explore parallel landscapes of the poet's interior and an insidious American condition. Using dark humor that helps illuminate the pains of maturity and loss of imagination, May uncovers language like a skilled architect—digging up bones of the past to expose what lies beneath the surface of the fragile human condition.
From: "Ask Where I've Been":
Ask about the tornado of fists.
The blows landed. If you can
watch it all—the spit and blood frozen
against snow, you can probably tell
I am the too-narrow road winding out
of a crooked city built of laughter,
abandon, feathers and drums.
Ask only if you can watch streetlights bow,
bridges arc, and power lines sag,
and still believe what matters most
is not where I bend
but where I am growing.
Jamaal May is a poet, editor, and filmmaker from Detroit, Michigan, where he taught poetry in public schools and worked as a freelance audio engineer and touring performer. His poetry won the 2013 Indiana Review Poetry Prize and appears in journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, the Believer, NER, and the Kenyon Review. May has earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College as well as fellowships from Cave Canem and The Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He founded the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press.
The poetry of Nikki Giovanni has spurred movements, turned hearts and informed generations. She’s been hailed as a firebrand, a radical, a healer, and a sage; a wise and courageous voice who has spoken out on the sensitive issues, including race and gender, that touch our national consciousness.
As energetic and relevant as ever, Nikki now offers us an intimate, affecting, and illuminating look at her personal history and the mysteries of her own heart. In A Good Cry, she takes us into her confidence, describing the joy and peril of aging and recalling the violence that permeated her parents’ marriage and her early life. She pays homage to the people who have given her life meaning and joy: her grandparents, who took her in and saved her life; the poets and thinkers who have influenced her; and the students who have surrounded her. Nikki also celebrates her good friend, Maya Angelou, and the many years of friendship, poetry, and kitchen-table laughter they shared before Angelou’s death in 2014.
Finalist for 2013 William Carlos Williams Award
"Patricia Smith is writing some of the best poetry in America today. Ms Smith’s new book, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, is just beautiful—and like the America she embodies and represents—dangerously beautiful. Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah is a stunning and transcendent work of art, despite, and perhaps because of, its pain. This book shines." —Sapphire
"One of the best poets around and has been for a long time." —Terrance Hayes
"Smith's work is direct, colloquial, inclusive, adventuresome." —Gwendolyn Brooks
In her newest collection, Patricia Smith explores the second wave of the Great Migration. Shifting from spoken word to free verse to traditional forms, she reveals "that soul beneath the vinyl."
Patricia Smith is the author of five volumes of poetry, including Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and Teahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series selection. She lives in New Jersey.
Praise for Dated Emcees:
"In the old tellings hip-hop was a woman, a certain kind—one needing, even begging to be saved. In Dated Emcees, Chinaka Hodge gives her a voice and she tells of her loves and desires, her traumas and pains in words as hard, as lit, as loving, cunning, cutting, ecstatic, as tender and devastating as her big world requires. This is poetry that, in its infinite power and intimate grace, will still turn in your mind long after the music is over."—Jeff Chang, author of Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America
"Hodge writes with an unpredictable, rare honesty. This collection quietly and simply illustrates love in a complicated world."—Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino
“This is an absolute powerhouse of a book, and a new pinnacle for Chinaka Hodge. There’s enough beauty and heartbreak and melancholy and humor and sorrow in here for three collections, or two lifetimes. Hodge’s writing is so incredibly specific but somehow universal, so honest and raw but somehow polished to unimproveability. She deserves a wide audience, an attentive audience, an audience that wants to be astounded.”—Dave Eggers, author of The Circle
"Chinaka Hodge is hands down, unequivocally, my favorite writer of words. All day. Every day. She writes with the grace of a dancer, the bars of a rapper, the heart of your best friend, and all of the swag and soul of Oakland. Dated Emcees made me cry. And I don't really do that. It doesn't use Hip Hop as a lens. It is Hip Hop. In the way that we, who have grown up with rap as our brilliant, estranged, mythological, abusive lover/father/son, are all Hip Hop. Aware of his flaws, and his potential. And loving him unconditionally. These are poems to read every day. To make mantras from. They are the best poems you've ever read."—Daveed Diggs, Actor/Rapper, star of Hamilton on Broadway
"Every time I hear new work from Chinaka Hodge I wonder if she was always this good. She was, I’m pretty sure. And yet somehow, she’s leveled up again. Dated Emcees is a dropped microphone, and a direct challenge to anyone listening. Step your game up."—George Watsky, author of How to Ruin Everything: Essays
“Ms. Hodge’s collection complicates dogmatic notions of feminist principles and hip hop pathologies. She is the steward of a candid and sonorous new form, a lyrical journalism expressed in a meter that climbs from West Oakland’s Bottoms to the peak of a Wonder-laced rocket love. Dated Emcees is outlined in the matter of black life, streamlined through the filter of black womb … a smoke-filled lung in a sweat-filled club of safety and danger, and the bass of black moon.”—Marc Bamuthi Joseph, arts activist, spoken word artist, US Artists Rockefeller Fellow
Brutal Imagination is the work of a poet at the peak of his considerable powers, confronting a crucial subject: the black man in America.
“A hymn to all the sons this country has stolen from her African-American families.”—The Village Voice
This poetry collection explores the vision of the black man in white imagination, as well as the black family and the barriers of color, class, and caste that tear it apart. These two main themes showcase Cornelius Eady’s range: his deft wit, inventiveness, and skillfully targeted anger, and the way in which he combines the subtle with the charged, street idiom with elegant inversions, harsh images with the sweetly ordinary.
Includes poems that inspired the libretto for Eady’s music-drama Running Man, a 1999 Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Even the men in black armor, the ones
Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else
Are they so buffered against, if not love’s blade
Sizing up the heart’s familiar meat?
We watch and grieve. We sleep, stir, eat.
Love: the heart sliced open, gutted, clean.
Love: naked almost in the everlasting street,
Skirt lifted by a different kind of breeze.
—from “Unrest in Baton Rouge”
In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. Smith’s signature voice—inquisitive, lyrical, and wry—turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence. Here, private utterance becomes part of a larger choral arrangement as the collection widens to include erasures of The Declaration of Independence and the correspondence between slave owners, a found poem comprised of evidence of corporate pollution and accounts of near-death experiences, a sequence of letters written by African Americans enlisted in the Civil War, and the survivors’ reports of recent immigrants and refugees. Wade in the Water is a potent and luminous book by one of America’s essential poets.
“This slim volume delights on every page. There are stories, imaginings, whimsy, and startling images which prove the poet’s power and her command of language . . . Anyone with a love of language will be delighted with this book and the continuing publication of America’s treasured poet.”—San Francisco Book Review
The poetry of Nikki Giovanni has spurred movements and inspired songs, turned hearts and informed generations. She's been hailed as a healer and as a national treasure. But Giovanni's heart resides in the everyday, where family and lovers gather, friends commune, and those no longer with us are remembered. And at every gathering there is food—food as sustenance, food as aphrodisiac, food as memory. A pot of beans is flavored with her mother's sighs—this sigh part cardamom, that one the essence of clove; a lover requests a banquet as an affirmation of ongoing passion; homage is paid to the most time-honored appetizer: soup.
With Chasing Utopia, Giovanni demands that the prosaic—flowers, birdsong, winter—be seen as poetic, and reaffirms once again why she is as energetic, "remarkable" (Gwendolyn Brooks), "wonderful" (Marian Wright Edelman),"outspoken, prolific, energetic" (New York Times), and relevant as ever.
This powerful and moving collection of poems stretches across the boundaries of skin color, language, ethnicity, and religion to give voice to the lives and experiences of ethnic Americans. With extraordinary honesty, dignity, and insight, these poems address common themes of assimilation, communication, and self-perception. In recording everyday life in our many American cultures, they displace the myths and stereotypes that pervade our culture.
Unsettling America includes work by:
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Naomi Shihab Nye
...and many more.
Watch for the new collection of poetry from Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, coming in June of 2018
In How to Be Drawn, his daring fifth collection, Terrance Hayes explores how we see and are seen. While many of these poems bear the clearest imprint yet of Hayes’s background as a visual artist, they do not strive to describe art so much as inhabit it. Thus, one poem contemplates the
principle of blind contour drawing while others are inspired by maps, graphs, and assorted artists. The formal and emotional versatilities that distinguish Hayes’s award-winning poetry are unified by existential focus. Simultaneously complex and transparent, urgent and composed, How to Be Drawn is a mesmerizing achievement.
“A sophisticated and breathtaking writer, Reeves takes the reader on a harrowing journey: each poem comes packed with arresting imagery, relentless in its examination of how tragedy and trauma become internalized — cleaning out the wounds to understand the pain.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Roger Reeves' King Me stitches together many worlds into one startling and visceral book. His ranging, encyclopedic knowledge crosses history, medicine, biology, metapoetics and more, but he tackles it all with a bold and sonorous surrealist flow.”—American Microreviews
From a horse witnessing the lynching of Emmett Till to Mikhail Bulgakov chronicling the forced famines in Poland in the 1930s, King Me examines the erotics of care and the place of song, elegy, and praise as testaments to those moments. As Roger Reeves said in an interview, "While writing King Me, I became very interested in the mythology of king, the one who is sacrificed at the end of the harvest season. . . . For me, the myth manifests in the killing of young black men, Emmett Till, and in the ways America deems young, black male bodies as expendable—Jean Michel Basquiat, Mike Tyson, Jack Johnson. These are the young kings whom we love to kill—over and over again."
From "Some Young Kings":
The hummingbirds inside my chest,with their needle-nosed pliers for tonguesand hammer-heavy wings, have left a messof ticks in my lungs and a punctured lullabyin my throat. Little boy blue come blowyour horn. The cow's in the meadow. And Dorothy's alone in the corn with Jack, his black fingers, the brass of his lips, the half-moons of his fingernails clickingalong her legs until she howls—Charlie Parker. Charlie Parker. Charlie Parker . . .
Roger Reeves earned his MFA from the James A. Michener Center for Creative Writing and his PhD from the University of Texas. His poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, and Boston Review. He teaches at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Now in paperback, Directed by Desire is the definitive overview of June Jordan’s -poetry. Collecting the finest work from Jordan’s ten volumes, as well as dozens of “last poems” that were never published in Jordan’s lifetime, these more than six hundred pages overflow with intimate lyricism, elegance, fury, meditative solos, and dazzling vernacular riffs.
As Adrienne Rich writes in her introduction, June Jordan “wanted her readers, listeners, students, to feel their own latent power—of the word, the deed, of their own beauty and intrinsic value.”
From “These Poems”:
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
are you ready?
The cloth edition of Directed by Desire was selected as a Library Journal Poetry Book of the Year and received the Lambda Book Award for Lesbian Poetry.
June Jordan taught at UC Berkeley for many years and founded Poetry for the People. Her twenty-eight books include poetry, essays, fiction, and children’s books. She was a regular columnist for The Progressive and a prolific writer whose articles appeared in The Village Voice, The New York Times, Ms. Magazine, and The Nation. After her death in 2002, a school in the San Francisco School District was renamed in her honor.
Finalist for the 2017 NAACP Image Award
Three decades of powerful lyric poetry from a virtuoso of the English language in one unabridged volume.
Rita Dove’s Collected Poems 1974–2004 showcases the wide-ranging diversity that earned her a Pulitzer Prize, the position of U.S. poet laureate, a National Humanities Medal, and a National Medal of Art. Gathering thirty years and seven books, this volume compiles Dove’s fresh reflections on adolescence in The Yellow House on the Corner and her irreverent musings in Museum. She sets the moving love story of Thomas and Beulah against the backdrop of war, industrialization, and the civil right struggles. The multifaceted gems of Grace Notes, the exquisite reinvention of Greek myth in the sonnets of Mother Love, the troubling rapids of recent history in On the Bus with Rosa Parks, and the homage to America’s kaleidoscopic cultural heritage in American Smooth all celebrate Dove’s mastery of narrative context with lyrical finesse. With the “precise, singing lines” for which the Washington Post praised her, Dove “has created fresh configurations of the traditional and the experimental” (Poetry magazine).
A powerful, timely, dazzling collection of sonnets from one of America's most acclaimed poets, Terrance Hayes, the National Book Award winning author of Lighthead
"Sonnets that reckon with Donald Trump's America." -The New York Times
In seventy poems bearing the same title, Terrance Hayes explores the meanings of American, of assassin, and of love in the sonnet form. Written during the first two hundred days of the Trump presidency, these poems are haunted by the country's past and future eras and errors, its dreams and nightmares. Inventive, compassionate, hilarious, melancholy, and bewildered--the wonders of this new collection are irreducible and stunning.
"Beginning with the sweepingly inclusive and powerful `Red Velvet,' a Middle Passage poem for our times, Nikky Finney takes the reader to a wonderfully alive world where the musical possibilities of language overflow with surprise and innovation. Finney has an ear to go along with the wildness of her imagination, which sweeps through history like a pair of wings. Her carefully modulated free verse is always purposeful in its desire to move the reader in a way that allows us intimate access to necessary observations about ourselves. These poems, in other words, have the power to save us."---Bruce Weigl, author of What Saves Us
"In Nikky Finney's Head Off & Split the beauty of language soars and saves us even as we skirt the raw edge of terror. And something rare and precious is restored, a light, a circling movement of the spirit. This is poetry to give thanks for."---Meena Alexander, author of Quickly Changing River
"No one opens a vein on the page with a sharper and more nuanced gathered set of senses than Nikky Finney. In Head Off & Split, she takes aim at the heart of American wrong-headedness with a sense of purpose and integrity not only respectful of, but fueled by, her own brand of multiple kinships and remembrance, a grand struggle-swagger of powerful literary inheritance."---Thomas Sayers Ellis, author of Skin, Inc.
"With Head Off & Split, Nikky Finney establishes herself as one of the most eloquent, urgent, fearless and necessary poets writing in America today. What makes this book as important as anything published in the last decade is the irresistible music, the formal dexterity and the imaginative leaps she makes with metaphor and language in these simply stunning poems. This is a very, very important achievement."---Kwame Dawes, author of Hope's Hospice
When Alice Walker published her second collection of poems in 1976, she had spent the previous decade deeply immersed in the civil rights movement. In these verses are her most visceral reactions to a moment in history that would shape the country, and that she herself influenced through words and advocacy. In hymns to ancestors, passionate polemics, and laments for lost possibilities, Walker addresses the problems of the past while keeping an eye on the possibilities of the future. Even in the midst of the call for change, these poems reveal a deep yearning for individual connection to others, as well as a deeply personal connection to nature.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Alice Walker including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
A stunning poetry debut: this meditation on the black female figure throughout time introduces us to a brave and penetrating new voice.
Robin Coste Lewis’s electrifying collection is a triptych that begins and ends with lyric poems considering the roles desire and race play in the construction of the self. The central panel is the title poem, “Voyage of the Sable Venus,” a riveting narrative made up entirely of titles of artworks from ancient times to the present—titles that feature or in some way comment on the black female figure in Western art. Bracketed by Lewis’s autobiographical poems, “Voyage” is a tender and shocking study of the fragmentary mysteries of stereotype, as it juxtaposes our names for things with what we actually see and know. Offering a new understanding of biography and the self, this collection questions just where, historically, do ideas about the black female figure truly begin—five hundred years ago, five thousand, or even longer? And what role has art played in this ancient, often heinous story? From the “Young Black Female Carrying / a Perfume Vase” to a “Little Brown Girl / Girl Standing in a Tree / First Day of Voluntary / School Integration,” this poet adores her culture and the beauty to be found within it. Yet she is also a cultural critic alert to the nuances of race and desire and how they define us all, including herself, as she explores her own sometimes painful history. Lewis’s book is a thrilling aesthetic anthem to the complexity of race—a full embrace of its pleasure and horror, in equal parts.
From the Hardcover edition.
The legendary Jack Johnson (1878–1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers—and white America—to become the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka’s third work of poetry, follows the fighter’s journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved. Matejka’s book is part historic reclamation and part interrogation of Johnson’s complicated legacy, one that often misremembers the magnetic man behind the myth.
Watch for the new collection of poetry from Terrance Hayes, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, coming in June of 2018
Terrance Hayes is a dazzlingly original poet, interested in adventurous explorations of subject and form. His new work, Hip Logic, is full of poetic tributes to the likes of Paul Robeson, Big Bird, Balthus, and Mr. T, as well as poems based on the anagram principle of words within a word. Throughout, Hayes's verse dances in a kind of homemade music box, with notes that range from tender to erudite, associative to narrative, humorous to political. Hip Logic does much to capture the nuances of contemporary male African American identity and confirms Hayes's reputation as one of the most compelling new voices in American poetry.
A rich and lively gathering of highlights from the first twenty years of an extraordinary career, interspersed with “B sides” and “bonus tracks” from this prolific and widely acclaimed poet.
Blue Laws gathers poems written over the past two decades, drawing from all nine of Kevin Young’s previously published books of poetry and including a number of uncollected, often unpublished, poems. From his stunning lyric debut (Most Way Home, 1995) and the amazing “double album” life of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2001, “remixed” for Knopf in 2005), through his brokenhearted Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003) and his recent forays into adult grief and the joys of birth in Dear Darkness (2008) and Book of Hours (2014), this collection provides a grand tour of a poet whose personal poems and political poems are equally riveting. Together with wonderful outtakes and previously unseen blues, the profoundly felt poems here of family, Southern food, and loss are of a piece with the depth of personal sensibility and humanity found in his Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels or bold sequences such as “The Ballad of Jim Crow” and a new “Homage to Phillis Wheatley.”
From the Hardcover edition.
but I know the face of death as if heirloom
my country memorizes murder as lullaby
—from “For Fahd”
Textured with the sights and sounds of growing up in East New York in the nineties, to school on the South Side of Chicago, all the way to the olive groves of Palestine, My Mother Is a Freedom Fighter is Aja Monet’s ode to mothers, daughters, and sisters—the tiny gods who fight to change the world. Complemented by striking cover art from Carrie Mae Weems, these stunning poems tackle racism, sexism, genocide, displacement, heartbreak, and grief, but also love, motherhood, spirituality, and Black joy.
Praise for Aja Monet:
““[Monet] is the true definition of an artist.”
““In Paris, she walked out onto the stage, opened her mouth and spoke. At the first utterance I heard that rare something that said this is special and knew immediately that Aja Monet was one of the Ones who will mark the sound of the ages. She brings depth of voice to the voiceless, and through her we sing a powerful song.”
—Carrie Mae Weems
Of Cuban-Jamaican descent, Aja Monet is an internationally established poet, performer, singer, songwriter, educator, and human rights advocate. Monet is also the youngest person to win the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title.