Evie Shockley's new poems invite us to dream—and work—toward a more capacious "we"
In her new poetry collection, Evie Shockley mobilizes visual art, sound, and multilayered language to chart routes towards openings for the collective dreaming of a more capacious "we." How do we navigate between the urgency of our own becoming and the imperative insight that whoever we are, we are in relation to each other? Beginning with the visionary art of Black women like Alison Saar and Alma Thomas, Shockley's poems draw and forge a widening constellation of connections that help make visible the interdependence of everyone and everything on Earth.
i am black, comely,
a girl on the cusp of desire.
my dangling toes take the rest
the rest of my body refuses. spine upright,
my pose proposes anticipation. i poise
in copper-colored tension, intent on
manifesting my soul in the discouraging world.
under the rough eyes of others, i stiffen.
if i must be hard, it will be as a tree, alive
with change. inside me, a love of beauty rises
like sap, sprouts from my scalp
and stretches forth. i send out my song, an aria
blue and feathered, and grow toward it,
choirs bare, but soon to bud. i am
black and becoming.
—after Alison Saar's Blue Bird
alma's arkestral vision (or, farther out) • we :: becoming & going • perched • no car for colored (+) ladies (or, miss wells goes off [on] the rails)• the blessings the beauties: third dimension • blues-elegy for cheryl • (in)site unseen • sol(ace) song • the lost track of time • we :: uppity & down • women's voting rights at one hundred (but who's counting?) •nature studies • fruitful • dive in • what does it mean to be human? • in this light • "the musician stands out" (or, le musée de l'orangerie curates a history lesson) • breonna taylor's final rest (or, the furies are still activists) • color-bleeding • destin(ed)ation • migratory patterns: birds of paradise • we :: indurate & out • virtually free • fire works • can't unsee 50 an inoculation against innocence • one foot out of the panorama • umbra's ell • in relation: a semi-cento with, for, and about john keene (et al.) • jury duty • prefixed • holla •anti-immigration • ex patria • we :: adhere & there • the center of a tension • direct to your table • we'd like to propose— • brava gente • pantoum: 2020 • sonnet for the long second act • facing south •les milles • notes • acknowledgements
"suddenly we sings the nuanced realities of Black life as homage, elegy, and polyphonic celebration striking at the core of remembrance. A deep and unfettered thinking, Shockley gives us shouts of joy amidst the drudge of a world unraveled."~Matthew Shenoda, author of Tahrir Suite
"This verbally and visually stirring outing from Shockley (Semiautomatic) offers a rewarding mix of short and long poems, elegies and odes, images, repetitions, and 'conversation' with writers and artists Shockley's poems are risk-taking and significant"~Publishers Weekly
"...an astonishing variety of poetic styles... and across all of it there's a sense of play and innovation..."~Brittney Edmonds, New Books Network
"Evie Shockley's work is imbued with a particular kind of tenderness, for the world and for the self in the world. It's a savvy tenderness wedded to a type of vigilance that continually tracks the lines of the political and the personal, documenting where they meet and where they later separate again..."~Poetry Society of America
"There is so much movement but also transformation. A blossoming, a birthing, a blooming that is really intriguing."~Dean Rader, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Shockley's homophones and verbal play shred the sentence into its most basic units. The result is as charming and fun as it is political. Her book probes inheritance: what we inherit from history and from language."~Diana Mehta, Electric Lit