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Latest Playlist

Pick Up Your Feelings (after Jazmine Sullivan)

Honestly, I’m tired. I’m Black and Woman and Queer, and this country is a mess. But these poems by these poets hold the Annie Lee painting “Blue Monday” in me, and a person who can persist—look at my life and ask questions: who do I love, what is my salve, who keeps me dreaming? And, these poets never shirk the past, but lay it out so we know “this has been, and it’s doneness is a myth, so what new-new you got?” I’m ever grateful for their sharp inquiry, their beauty, and ultimately their call to rise. Yes, there's a fight. And there’s something more to fight for: this living thing. When Lorde said. When Morrison said. When Baldwin said. When Hurston said. When Kitt said. We call back. Listen.

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Featured on February 22, 2021

Mezzanine

Named for the floor between floors and a kind of amphibious financing, Zoë Hitzig’s exquisitely engineered Mezzanine lands the reader in a nether place of talking commodities, misplaced agency, category mistakes, and radical dysphoria. As intricately woven as it is scrupulously observed and considered, if this “unwell trelliswork” of anomie and economics sounds strangely familiar, that’s because we live here, siloed on digital platforms where denial is easy, where fabricated cricket song takes the place of crickets and self-knowledge has been obviated by human subject research. Into these dire circumstances Hitzig dives head-first, feverish, an investigator who grapples with reality by recasting it from the inside out. In other words, she is a poet, and an extraordinary one at that—one whose response to our communal plight (“Then everyone was plural: data”) is charged with an intensity that at times recalls Eliot in its elegant, extrapersonal despair (“a heap of crackling synapses”), but here and there, and just in time, a fleck of good cheer or unexpected hopefulness (“I am not preparing / to leave”) reminds us of what there is to love in the human, and what it feels like to feel like it’s still too soon to give up.

- Timothy Donnelly

 

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Featured on February 15, 2021

The Supposed Huntsman

In her debut full-length collection of poems, The Supposed Huntsman, Fowley creates spaces that blur the lines of gender, species, and self: “Every animal is deadly / even the shape-shifter.” Fowley uses incantatory anaphora to enact endless transformations, becoming by turns a motley, plume-lit teacher-creature and a bear longing, like a bro, for a maiden in a tree. Drawing inspiration from Brothers Grimm fairy tales and troubadour tradition, Fowley’s poems elate and interrogate, ever aware that “childhood is so intensely serious.”

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Featured on February 8, 2021

"god’s brown face"

From the sureheaded playwright Lorraine Hansberry to genius Afroharpist Alice Coltrane, from lunch ladies who make monkey bread to grandmothers who fuss during commercial breaks, Black women are the supreme recipients of affection in these speakers’ lives. Sometimes the affection is broad—a seeing, a framing to preserve, it takes the form of insight. Other times it is a bit more complex—a curse word never uttered to the beloved’s face, pain lingering inside a shared experience of religion. Nikky Finney calls Lorraine Hansberry an “unforgettable insurgent, who always wanted to be in love,” and her speaker reads her while waiting “for an incapable lover to finally leave.” Jada Renée Allen honors that iconic line from Lucille Clifton, transforming it for her speaker's identity. E. Hughes’ speaker tries to understand her mother in perhaps the most expansive way—as a person and not just a parent, as a luminous young woman doing her best just before she enters an era of loss. These moments with our beloveds instruct and offer, as the scholar Kara Keeling writes, “time in which we can work to perceive something different or differently,” they bring us closest to what Hughes calls, “god’s
brown face.”

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