Black Swim

Nicholas Goodly

In Black Swim, Nicholas Goodly casts a spell to transform darkness into perfect darkness. This stunning debut collection is at once “forged from the hurt parts of the ground,” and “proof of a miracle,” spinning ache and sweat and sweetness into a new model of feeling through language. Black people, queer/trans/nonbinary people, flamboyant people, lonely people, gaudy people, kind people, witches, artists, and angry people will meet themselves and each other in these pages. Amidst death and against injustice, Goodly’s poems bear gifts for and from the ancestors—a necklace, a mirror, a form of offered prayer: “If there is a purpose in this life / let me wash my face in it.”

ISBN: 9781556596513

Format: Paperback

First Poem

I had ever written was about green bug
because I painted one at school or the painting
came later to go with the poem or the poem
was about gold and was printed in rainbow letters
and the painting had a rainbow in it the picture
was a blue watering bucket a butterfly an orange-
and-pink sunset made of vertical stripes
and a purple rainbow and a rose or tulip
and the poem had a refrain it was a song
a song for class or I wrote it for my dance
teacher because she thought I was a poet
and I read it to the class or just to her she said
beautiful or thank you and the painting and poem
are in a frame together now and it matters
that where it all started was a good garden

About the Author

Nicholas Goodly is a writer and artist living in Atlanta. They are the writing editor of Wussy Magazine, a Cave Canem fellow, and team member of the performing arts platform Fly on a Wall. Nicholas received an MFA and teaching fellowship from Columbia University and is the recipient of the 2017 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. Nicholas was a finalist for the 2020 Jake Adam York Prize and runner-up for the 2019 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Nicholas’ poetry has been published in  The New Yorker, Boston …

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“Many-voiced and whole, the debut full-length collection from Goodly is a vibrant, polyphonic inquiry. The poems celebrate and lament, root deeply in the body and soar beyond, articulate injustice and embody joy. ‘Siren’ declares that ‘I refuse/ my sunken name/ and sing to a body/ I want for myself.’ An elegy for a lost sister both asks and promises, ‘if there is a purpose in this life/ let me wash my face in it.’ ‘R&B Facts’ is proud, mournful, elegiac, and hopeful at once. Again and again, the poems surprise with their multitude of selves and connective tissues, their use of art, language, and body to enliven and to push against worn singular narratives. A ‘poem doesn’t have to mean anything/ a poem is a fire with no end/ if given another chance in this life/ I’d make peace with getting weaker everyday.’ Whether expressed in the talismanic joy of donning all one’s necklaces or the sensation that ‘we are a waltz crawling content on the floor/ we are a tenor too perfectly in the middle of things/ both hysterical men both staying innocent together,’ Goodly’s emotional and empathic range is expansive. And, if it isn’t already clear, they write lines a reader will repeat like an incantation. . . . A lyrical, nuanced, and inventive debut.” —Library Journal