cover image Dispatch


Cameron Awkward-Rich. Persea, $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-89255-503-1

Cave Canem–fellow and Lambda Literary Award–finalist Awkward-Rich (Sympathetic Little Monster) holds self (“the pith of me,”) assuredly at the surface of his powerful second collection. Imagination emerges as a strategy for black trans survival: “if I have to I’ll shape a window/ to the universe adjacent calm/ my blackened heart.” Weighed down by the “brutal choreography” of violence against black, queer, and trans bodies, the poet reestablishes buoyancy through will and formidable artistry: “now I have a choice/ repair a world or build/ a new one inside my body.” In a linked series of poems that share the title “[Black Feeling],” the poet wakes “alone in the manic dark/ head in [his] hands ringing// &ringing, faithful/ goddamned blood alarm” or rides, anonymous, on a bus through the city, “circling like animals, like prey.” “Either way,” a refrain reminds, “there you are in the room with your body.” In countless rooms, poetry plays out the “perfect skein/ of my living, brazen/ misplaced song”: “I think gunflower & here’s a field. Here’s a room/ where every bullet planted blooms,” and “here’s a room/ where everything you’ve lost is washed ashore.” In these poems of bracing clarity, national violence is unflinchingly and meaningfully confronted. (Dec.)