Hands Washing Water

Chris Abani

Paperback: $15.00 list price

Hands Washing Water, is a mischievous book of displacement, exile, ancestry, and subversive humor. The central section, “Buffalo Women,” is a Civil War correspondence between lovers that plays on our assumptions about war, gender, morality, and politics. Abani’s writing is ruthless, boldly engages with trauma, and is filled with surprising twists and turns.

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Sanctificum

Chris Abani

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A self-described “zealot of optimism,” poet and best-selling novelist Chris Abani bravely travels the charged intersections of atrocity and love, politics and religion, loss and renewal. Sanctificum, a book-length sequence of linked poems, is Abani’s most intimate and ambitious book to date, a tour de force bringing together religious ritual, the Igbo language of his Nigerian homeland, and reggae rhythms in a complex, liturgical love song.

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The Tradition

Jericho Brown

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Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

Beauty abounds in Jericho Brown’s The Tradition, despite and inside of the evil that pollutes the everyday. These poems question why and how we’ve become accustomed to terror: in the bedroom, the classroom, the workplace, and the movie theater. From mass shootings to rape to the murder of unarmed people by police, Brown interrupts complacency by locating each emergency in the garden of the body, where living things grow and wither—or survive. Jericho Brown is a poet of eros: here he wields this power as never before, touching the very heart of our cultural crisis.

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The New Testament

Jericho Brown

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In The New Testament, Jericho Brown summons myth, fable, elegy, and fairy tale in a tender examination of race, masculinity, and sexuality. A triumphant second collection, The New Testament laments the erasure of culture and ethnicity, elegizes two brothers haunted by shame, yet extols survival in the face of brutality and disease. Brown seeks not to revise the Bible but to find the source of redemption.

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The Crossed-Out Swastika

Cyrus Cassells

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The Crossed-Out Swastika tells the electrifying stories of young people caught in the vise of World War II. In its journey through the “anti-miracle” of Europe’s embattled past, this book follows the lives of historical characters confronted by human violence. Cassells’ poems unflaggingly unearth and amplify moments of almost impossible bravery, music, beauty, and redemption, carefully illuminating the human spirit against unspeakable tyranny.

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More Than Peace and Cypresses

Cyrus Cassells

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Cyrus Cassells’s fourth volume of poems explores the poet’s spiritual and artistic patrimony. In the wake of his father’s death from cancer, the poet returns to Italy, France, and Spain—countries that nurtured him as a young writer—to investigate the sources of his inspiration.

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Beautiful Signor

Cyrus Cassells

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Beautiful Signor is a trenchant search for beauty in a world ravaged by cruelty. In the face of the AIDS pandemic and the specter of sexual wounding, Beautiful Signor gracefully reminds us of “romantic, erotic love as a gateway to spiritual love” (American Bookseller). With unwavering tenderness these poems bring the enduring legacy of the troubadours and Sufi poets into a modern lyric tradition.

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Soul Make a Path Through Shouting

Cyrus Cassells

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Enriched both mythologically and experientially by his world travels, Cassells makes the vital journey of his poetry inward, a search for spiritual grace drawing from Greek mythology, children’s rhymes, and African-American oral traditions. The result is an often hypnotic and rhapsodic interweaving of dramatic narratives forming a single whole.

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The Book of Light

Lucille Clifton

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Lucille Clifton—one of the most important poets of the 21st century—published some of her most beloved poems in The Book of Light. The collection shines brightly into the shadows using Clifton’s formidable powers of revelation, her uncanny ability to locate the eternal in the midst of mundane experience, and to transform a vision into spontaneous song. This book bears witness to a masterful poet’s awe and gratitude for a world of passionate discovery, compassionate anger, and devotion.

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Duppy Conqueror

Kwame Dawes

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Deeply nuanced in its exploration of the human condition, the poetry of Kwame Dawes encompasses the spiritual, the political, and the sensual as it insists upon both witness and celebration. Deeply rooted in art and music, Dawes’ poems revel in language even as they reveal continuously reopened wounds. The many voices and moods gathered in Duppy Conqueror consistently remind the reader what it means to be a global citizen.

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Cardinal

Tyree Daye

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Cardinal traces the South’s burdened interiors and the interiors of a Black male protagonist attempting to navigate his many departures and returns home—a place that could both lovingly rear him and coolly annihilate him. With the language of elegy and praise, intoning regional dialect and a deliberately disruptive cadence, Daye carries the voices of ancestors and blues poets, while stretching the established zones of the Black American vernacular. These are poems to be read aloud.

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River Hymns

Tyree Daye

APR/Honickman First Book Prize winner

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Hardcover $23.00 list price

Winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize, River Hymns invites the reader into the complex lineage of the values, contradictions, and secrets of a southern family. These poems reflect on the rich legacy of a young black man’s ancestry: what to use, what to leave behind, and what haunts.

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Hardcover $23.00 list price

Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan

June Jordan, Jan Heller Levi, Sara Miles, ed.

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This definitive volume gathers work from June Jordan’s ten books of poetry and includes many never-before-published poems—including a tender, fierce, and innovative collection of poems written before her death in 2002. Throughout her storied career as an artist and activist, Jordan chronicled a living, breathing history of the struggles that have defined the United States. Having engaged in a vast stylistic range, Jordan’s work broadened and enriched the traditions of American poetry. 

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The Essential June Jordan

June Jordan, Jan Heller Levi, Christoph Keller, eds.

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In this definitive volume, introduced by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jericho Brown, June Jordan’s generous body of poetry is distilled and curated to represent the very best of her works. Written over the span of several decades, Jordan’s poems are at once of their era and tragically current, with subject matter including racist police brutality, violence against women, and the opportunity for global solidarity amongst people who are marginalized or outside of the norm. In these poems of great immediacy and radical kindness, humor and embodied candor, readers will (re)discover a voice that has inspired generations of contemporary poets to write their truths. June Jordan is a powerful voice of the time-honored movement for justice, a poet for the ages.

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Mi Revalueshanary Fren

Linton Kwesi Johnson

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Linton Kwesi Johnson is one of the most influential black poets in Britain, known worldwide for his fusion of lyrical verse and reggae. Much of his work is written in the street Creole of the Caribbean communities in which he grew up in England. Mi Revalueshanary Fren includes all of his best-known poems, which address racism and politics, personal experience, philosophy, and the art of music.

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Alpha Zulu

Gary Copeland Lilley

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Alpha—the beginning; the first letter of the military alphabet; the highest rank in a dominance hierarchy; being the most prominent, talented, or aggressive person in a group. Zulu—tribe; a member of the Negroid people of eastern South Africa; a Social Aid and Pleasure Club in New Orleans; an adjective to describe the language, customs, etc., of the Zulu people. Alpha Zulu is a venture into African-American storytelling; it is a blurring of the secular and the sacred, the tavern and the church, the fall and the ascension of the individual, the beautiful and the terrible, and the humanity found in the twist of the street and the turn of the road.

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Configurations: New & Selected Poems, 1958–1998

Clarence Major

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This substantial volume, half of which is comprised of new and previously uncollected work, represents the first retrospective of novelist, anthologist, and poet Clarence Major’s forty-year writing career. Informed by topics as diverse as racism, painting, travel, music, sexuality, and mythology, Major’s poems reflect a love for the language which is infectious.

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Waiting for Sweet Betty

Clarence Major

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In Waiting for Sweet Betty, Clarence Major observes the world with careful longing to capture the exchanges and conflicts between person and place. Just as a painter juxtaposes colors and shapes, so does Major with words. He shifts perspective away from the self, allowing words to play off one another with puns, inverted/subverted clichés, and improvisational soundings—so that his vision might become anyone’s. His subtle, conversational style is at once humble, playful, humorous, and studied, and his stories are seen as well as heard.

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Totem

Gregory Pardlo

APR/Honickman First Book Prize winner

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In his youth, Gregory Pardlo heard stories of factory hours and picket lines from his father; in the bars, clubs, and on the radio he listened to jazz and blues, the rhythms, beats, and aspirations of which all of which seep into his poems. Pardlo creates work that is deeply autobiographical, drifting between childhood and adult life. He moves between and among modes, seamlessly from art analysis to sneakers hung over the telephone lines. Deeply rooted in a blue-collar world, he produces snapshots of a life that is so specific it becomes universal.

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Incorrect Merciful Impulses

Camille Rankine

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A bold debut collection, Camille Rankine’s Incorrect Merciful Impulses reflects with perfect clarity the symptoms of and instructions for contemporary life, inquiring into history, politics, culture, identity, and mortality while always remaining attuned to wonder and curiosity. World-wise and incisive, reverent and compassionate, Rankine confronts challenging questions with art that dares to inspire.

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King Me

Roger Reeves

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King Me, the debut collection by Roger Reeves, gathers the fragments of American identity and makes each poem sing of its beauty and its horror. Adopting personae that range from a horse witnessing the lynching of Emmett Till to Mikhail Bulgakov chronicling the forced famines in Poland in the 1930s, Reeves investigates violence and the politics of poverty, gender, race, and self. Even as the poet exposes the most appalling acts of humanity, here there is great tenderness and generosity.

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Library of Small Catastrophes

Alison C. Rollins

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With a nod to Borges’s fascination with libraries, this ambitious first collection by Alison C. Rollins—a librarian herself—archives the grist and grind of life with marvelous linguistic agility and philosophical sapience. “Memory is about the future, not the past,” she reminds, and offers poems as maps: counting teeth and time, marking punctuation and punishment, and remembering disappeared histories. Inside her indexed precision, Rollins leaves plenty of room for wilderness—the leaking body, the music of tragedy, the personal lament—cataloguing love and loss on an existential scale.

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Communion: Poems 1976–1998

Primus St. John

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St. John is a master of both the brief lyric poem and longer narrative sequences, such as his book-length poem, “Dreamer,” which explores the Middle Passage and the heritage of slavery. Communion gathers poems from three out-of-print volumes with new poems. Raised by West Indian grandparents who instilled in him a deep sense of family and social history, St. John was a waiter, laborer, gambler, and civil servant before settling into teaching at Portland State University. He makes these experiences vividly alive in poems which are by turns fierce and gentle, and always compelling.

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Waterbaby

Nikki Wallschlaeger

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Nikki Wallschlaeger turns to water―the natural element of grief―to trace history’s interconnected movements through family, memory, and day-to-day survival. Waterbaby is a book about Blackness, language, and motherhood in America; about the ancestral joys and sharp pains that travel together through the nervous system’s crowded riverways; about the holy sanctuary of the bathtub for a spirit that’s pushed beyond exhaustion. Through Wallschlaeger’s vibrant lexicon and varied rhythms, Waterbaby sings the blues in every key.

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Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love

Keith S. Wilson

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At first blush, Keith S. Wilson’s debut book is achingly romantic—lilting, lyrical, shaped by the tenderness of regret—but these are poems that speak in layers, bridging the interstitial spaces between personal and societal longing. The stars look on as the speaker remembers the hips of a lover, just as the stars look on as the speaker is instructed by a policeman to put his hands behind his back. We are in an ordinary studio apartment in Chicago; we are in a Kentucky field. We are in a liminal corridor: between black and not black, pastoral memory and Afrofuturism, the night sky and the cruel light of day, pleasure and emergency.

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