cover image Against Heaven

Against Heaven

Kemi Alabi. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-64445-082-6

Winner of the Academy of American Poets First Book Award, Alabi’s ecstatic debut pulses with the language of Black queer joy. Simultaneously a celebration of the body and a story of resisting the oppression that polices it, these poems offer a condemnation of the racist, classist, and sexist foundations of what Alabi calls “empire,” epitomized in religious belief. The first line of the first poem, “How to Fornicate,” pulls no punches as it sets the tone: “After killing your god, hotbox the gun smoke.” Alabi adeptly incorporates poetic forms ranging from erasure to the golden shovel, remixing inherited language from Louise Glück to Cardi B: “Splayed open slow, tempting a spill, grateful to be devoured like I’ll/ Make my giggling groommates, spit-tethered hips churned tender flip.” As the speaker in these poems abandons the colonizing mindset of empire, they wonder, “If forgiveness, uncoupled from the cross at our jugular, was a song we could know.” Powerfully polemical, this impressive collection exclaims a message of liberation from body to the body politic. (Apr.)