by Michelle M. Tokarczyk
Order your copy of this breakthrough from the Bronx today.
In Bronx Migrations, Michelle M. Tokarczyk takes us into the world of her beloved Bronx: ‘…the streets of fruit carts and milk trucks…a billboard half ripped out, a church’s locked door…’ She says, ‘Understand you are the one who understands.’ With great compassion and an enlivened voice, these poems delve into race and privilege as she tells us what it takes to build a life—and then to cross the bridge into Queens and beyond.
- Jan Beatty
Michelle M. Tokarczyk offers us detailed, evocative portraits of urban life with compassion and insight. These stories of poverty, struggle, and survival—too often left untold or unheard—give witness to the human struggle of working-class families in unexpected and powerful ways.
- Jim Daniels
One cannot read Michelle M. Tokarczyk's Bronx Migrations without being moved—from the past to the present, from the Bronx to Queens to Suburbia, from childhood to adulthood, from physical houses to intangible homes, and from within. She graciously draws in what is missing from the straight edges and faded marks of time and place; she gives her readers an unforgettable and extraordinary record of ordinary reality.
- Katherine Cottle
Near the end of ‘Learning,’ one of the many fine poems sketching inner city lives in this collection, Michelle M. Tokarczyk writes, ‘Watch how a person makes his mark. / What he is willing to shatter.’ Here, where hope and pain and hunger lean out of apartment windows, children are wise beyond their years. This gifted poet takes us by the hand through dark alleys to the church of memory. Nothing gets lost in her unflinching log book of brave faces in a luminous history lesson we might have missed.
- Jeanne Bryner
by Curtis L. Crisler
2016 JESSIE REDMON FAUSET BOOK AWARD FINALIST
Curtis L. Crisler is the man—the bone man, the heart man, the roaming coyote-man howling from the breath’s bowels. He’s a poet of the body—profoundly so—because his body extends into the contemporary culture of “This” Ameri-can-ah, its people and their public and private griefs. He writes to and from the body with urgency as if Lorca meets Langston Hughes at the corner of Miles and Muddy. And he interrogates the stuckness of individual identity, telling us, “A strong lonely lodges / in his belly, and he cannot see sky.” Still, Crisler’s vision finds redemption in the generative accretion of speech itself: “How our utterances will drive / smack into air like the sparrow veering to a new / direction.” This new direction that language lends—his remarkable images and linguistic depth—is Crisler’s tenderly bold love song to the ups and downs & ins and outs of our culture. As he says, “I am not afraid of a word clamping its fangs into my muscle; I have a serum; / I have a moment in my bones that I can watch over & over on 35mm recall, // or in Blue-Ray HD.” “This” Ameri-can-ah is our Ameri-can-ah, a public pool of possibility Crisler assures us in this stunning new book that is well within the redemptive reach of the poet’s tongue.
- George Kalamaras, Poet Laureate of Indiana
Crisler out-schools every school of American poetry in this new book that is formally diverse and attractively multi-voiced. But in all of these odes, elegies, litanies, and contrapuntal clap-backs, there is a commitment to exploring the vernacular that keeps his "This" Amer-ican-ah a book that sounds much more like an intimate conversation between too long lost brothers. Or, as Crisler himself puts it, "...You bend words into lives that / live. Most get grounded. Some take sky."
- Jericho Brown, American Book Award Winner
Curtis L. Crisler has a humorist's knack for off-kilter Rockwellian portraiture. Among the models for his odd Americana, a way-gangsta Amish dude, a rabbit lamenting a kind of gentrification, an elementary school teacher dropping n-bombs for lit's sake, and men jeans-deep in muddy water, their arms inside giant catfish. All these and more Crisler renders genially enough that you may not notice how each is set against a background in a broken land. A land the poet insists is ours. All of ours.
- Douglas Kearney, National Poetry Series Award Winner
WORKSHOP POEMS FROM THE GWENDOLYN BROOKS CENTER
"Sometimes a collective of writers can capture the gathering will of a people—already born, already in motion, already making an impact on the world. Other times, a group can summon up voices from our subconscious—reckoning or echoing visions and dream imaginations for the future to come. This volume of voices is a reckoning of the unconscious will, and an echoing force from our collective imagination: Come together, from the Overground Express to a collective unconscious reckoning for the soul of our society."
-Ricardo Guthrie, Ethnic Studies Program, Northern Arizona University, Dinétah
“The Overground Railroad is a collection of voices on their way to freedom. There’s nothing underground about these poems that ‘call to all hues/of brown’ and also call ‘all bullets and other non-intellectual/weapons to cease.’ For the Rudy Giulianis and others wondering where is the outrage against black on black crime, here they are! These poems are so charged that they put exclamations in my pulse. I know you’ll feel the same way after sitting with this collection, where 'commitment/keeps us warm' and where the 'jealous pens and pencils spend eons' looking for 'metaphors and similes' to woo that fine poem “pranc[ing] through line/breaks.”
-Alan King, author of DRIFT
BY BRIAN GILMORE
Brian Gilmore is a poet, writer, public interest attorney, and columnist with the Progressive Media Project. He is a Cave Canem Fellow (1997), Kimbilio Fellow (2014), Literature Fellow for the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities (1997), Pushcart Prize nominee (2007), and winner of the Maryland State Arts Council's Individual Artist Award (2001 and 2003). Gilmore has been a contributing writer for Ebony-Jet.com, and JazzTimes Magazine. He is the author of two collections of poetry: elvis presley is alive and well and living in harlem, and Jungle Nights and Soda Fountain Rags: Poem for Duke Ellington. His poems and writings are widely published and have appeared in The Progressive, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and many other publications. He teaches law at the Michigan State University College of Law, where he lectures and writes on contemporary issues relating to housing and economic inequality, dividing his time between Michigan and his beloved birthplace, Washington, D.C.
"Gilmore gives us survival songs in We Didn't Know Any Gangsters. At the center are black men – the young and the old. If E. Franklin Frazier returned he would look at the black community with Gilmore's eyes. Yes, there are poems in this book that would make W.E.B. DuBois shake his head at the souls of black folks. Thank God, Brian Gilmore keeps a moral compass in his pocket. His poems are filled with good food, drink and love. The real gangsters are now ghosts. When Gilmore writes about his father we understand an amen follows every prayer. "
"Brian Gilmore's We Didn't Know Any Gangsters weds the wily clarity of Lucille Clifton to the cultural acuity of James Baldwin. "Res ipsa loquitur" ("The thing speaks for itself"), Gilmore says in one poem, recasting William Carlos Williams' dictum: "no ideas but in things," as a statement of self-determination and witness. Stereotypes, and clichés about African-American life are obliterated by poems that are vibrant, distinct and unequivocally American. Political, personal, exceptional—this is a remarkable book about what it means to be us."
-Terrance Hayes, 2010 National Book Award Winner
"In We Didn't know Any Gangsters, Brian Gilmore creates a work of architecture, populating it with people we'll never forget. Novelists and playwrights do this all the time, but when a poet creates a big stage with fascinating characters, that is technique and that is triumph. Meet a young man growing up, meet his family, see a society sometimes unsafe—and experience real life, expertly drawn, with pulsating, fast-moving, innovative, lyricism. The motor inside his poetry hums with prophecy and politics, but there is even more—there is a beautiful heart at the center of his writing, and poems are messages torn from it, sorted out, and, put all together to make up our human history. Brian Gilmore proves he was obviously born to write, and it's our good fortune."
-Grace Cavalieri, Producer/host of "The Poet and the Poem from The Library of Congress
by Truth Thomas & Cory Thomas
2014 Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Award Finalist
Mya is a gifted little girl who is bravely facing the fact that her television is trying to run her life. The television has very strong opinions about who it thinks Mya should be, how it thinks Mya should act, and what it thinks Mya should buy in order to find happiness. In the company of Mya's cat and ever-present sidekick, she gets pulled into a spectacular quest of self-discovery. In this magnetic adventure story, the television constantly tries to trip her up. With the support of her family, Mya ultimately triumphs. She learns to define her own self-worth on her own irrepressible terms.
Recommended for thoughtful children Ages 6+
"My TV is Not the Boss of Me' is Me right on time! In a world that quantifies and qualifies value by a media measuring stick, someone has to stand up and shout 'Stop!' This voice of reason is Mya, a little girl of color. Empowered by her ever present parents, Mya eventually decides her own worth and silences her media critics. Artfully illustrated and masterfully written, this book is a must read for all kids – and some adults, too."
-Antoinette Brim, author of Icarus in Love
“Mya is learning through trial and error, and the guidance of a good mom and dad, that self-worth is not found by conforming to the media’s standards of beauty and success. A smart, but impressionable girl, she comes out on the positive side in the end and becomes a role model for children everywhere. With its fine illustrations and timeless message, My TV is Not the Boss of Me should be the first of many books where we adventure with Mya and are encouraged, with each turn of the page, to be our very best.”
-Niki Herd, writer, author of The Language of Shedding Skin
"Speak Water speaks to the fluidity of that most ancient ethos: truth. And when you throw in justice, for that matter, you are dealing with Truth, as in Thomas-not doubting or pouting-but like Moses who spoke and split water, castigating the very enemies of righteousness with poems that are riotous and crystal clear as the holiest of waters should be. Speak Water is a testament to Truth Thomas' commitment to the power of the word. His mastery of ideas, images, syllables and forms puts to rest the stale, obdurate notion that poetry and politics can't live together to bear witness, to be beautiful and hopeful and true; to tell it like it is and how it ought to be-and make you cry, laugh, scratch your head, and think-like you're in church, testifying and signifying at all the lying and dying Babylon brings. Here be Truth. Here be Thomas. Hear him speak-and sing."
"Well, I didn't think Truth Thomas could write a still finer book than A Day of Presence and Bottle of Life, but here he has gone and done it. Writing from the streets of the suffering cities, writing riffs on damn near everything from Genesis and Lamentations to Langston and Etheridge, Amiri and Aretha, a soul-singer, a satirist, a born lover and magical metaphor-maker, Truth is his name for a reason. Speak Water is a book that's deep and wide. You'll be transformed when you get to the other side.
"There is a certain spirituality always in the poetry of Truth Thomas. Speak Water resonates with Thomas' unique blend of the spirit and the self. He has his own grounded language, and delivery, a cadence that is urban and historical, today, yesterday, tomorrow, but all the time, universal and willing to fight. He is a literary traveler; he goes where the best words are, the best thoughts, he reaches deep into his soul to understand the beauty of people, the songs of those that matter."
"Truth Thomas offers powerful verses and insightful reveries, then relieves the ironic pain with reasoned succor-first-aid for the wounded soul. He weaves meanings and codes from biblical notes, personal anecdotes, and political knowledge wielded through experience beyond his years-a mix between Nikki Giovanni at her finest, and Gil Scott-Heron at his sharpest. The poet's musical cadences and true timing are impeccable, pleasing, charming, and biting. It is truly inspiring to read verses with such lyrical soundings of Black America that are revelatory, romantic, spiritual and political."
-Dr. Ricardo Guthrie San Diego Poetry Guild, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, Northern Arizona University
"Truth Thomas is a contemporary poet who has obtained international acclaim for his second collection entitled Bottle of Life (2010). His latest work, Speak Water, is predicted to bring a broader audience and more success. Once again, Truth Thomas speaks 'unconditional truths.' The words and images flow from the biblical, early passages of 'Genesis' on to 'Revelations.' This collection is a mystical journey through the African and African-American experience through the ages. Ebbing through the lyrics, Thomas permits the unsung heroes of Black suffrage to obtain a voice. Intermingled with Langston Hughes and Aretha Franklin, all find a voice in this poetical, Black tapestry... forever afloat in the current of Speak Water."
-Dr. Rosetta Codling Literary Critic, Atlanta Books Examiner
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