Borrowing from Romare Bearden’s aesthetic palette and inspired by his Odysseus series, Bearden’s Odyssey gathers, for the first time, poems from thirty-five of the most revered African diaspora poets in the United States. Poetic echoes come forth in themes of inspiration with historical intersections of one of the greatest visual artists of the twentieth century.
The award-winning editors, Kwame Dawes and Matthew Shenoda, assemble an esteemed literary congregation, with original poems by Chris Abani, Rita Dove, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Ed Roberson, Aracelis Girmay, Yusef Komunyakaa, and more. With a powerful foreword by Nobel laureate Derek Walcott and stunning visual reproductions of select Bearden masterpieces, this anthology fuses art and literature, standing as a testament to Romare Bearden’s power and influence in the contemporary artistic world.
Winner, 2017 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
Winner, 2016 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in the Poetry category
Finalist, 2015 Balcones Poetry Prize
Shortlist finalist, 2015 PEN Open Book Award for an exceptional book by an author of color
"Another Anti-Pastoral," the opening poem of Forest Primeval, confesses that sometimes "words fail." With a "bleat in [her] throat," the poet identifies with the voiceless and wild things in the composed, imposed peace of the Romantic poets with whom she is in dialogue. Vievee Francis’s poems engage many of the same concerns as her poetic predecessors—faith in a secular age, the city and nature, aging, and beauty. Words certainly do not fail as Francis sets off into the wild world promised in the title. The wild here is not chaotic but rather free and finely attuned to its surroundings. The reader who joins her will emerge sensitized and changed by the enduring power of her work.
In the next chapter of the Cave Canem/Northwestern University Poetry Prize, we enter the poetic world of Vievee Francis. Bold and skilled, Francis takes us into the still landscapes of Texas and the fluid details of the African American South. Her poems become panhandle folktales revealing the weight of memories so clear and on the cusp. Her creative tangle of metaphors, people and geography will keep the reader rooted in a good earth of extraordinary verse.
The latest collection from award-winning poet Vievee Francis, The Shared World imagines the ideas and ideals and spaces of the Black woman. The book delves into inherited memories and restrictions between families, lovers, and strangers and the perception and inconvenient truth of Black woman as mother—with or without child. Francis challenges the ways in which Black women are often dismissed while expected to be nurturing. This raw assemblage of poetic narratives stares down the oppressors from within and writes a new language in the art of taking back the body and the memory. These poetic narratives are brutal in their lyrical blows but tender with the bruised history left behind. “You can’t stop this / song,” she writes. “More hands than yours have closed / around my throat.”
Francis’s lyric gifts are on full display as she probes self-discovery, history, intimacy, and violence. Her voice encompasses humor and gravity, enigma and revelation. What emerges is a realm of intertwined experiences. “The secret to knowing the secret is to speak,” she concludes, “but we too often tell / the stories of no matter and avoid the one story that does matter. / In truth, we are bound by one story, so you’d think by now / we’d tell it, at least to each other.”
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