Paying Respect

Toni Morrison

February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019


Last week was luminous in the way the world becomes after a beloved sage passes away and their essence dissolves, expands, and is taken up by the grieving collective. My feeds became a space flooded with brilliance as the words of Toni Morrison filled almost every post.  Homage after homage honored her prophetic voice and legacy. She changed the world with her imagination, enacting a ritual of reckoning and healing that will be rippling out for generations.
Those ripples are already moving in wide circles, most especially through the poetry community. It is wonderful to witness this moment in poetry, when the collective imagination is so fecund, so necessary, and so very, very well written.
This month I’ve been buried between the covers of these books. Each one fills me with wonder and admiration.
  • Jericho Brown’s The Tradition & Camonghne Felix’s Build Yourself a Boat vying for most gorgeous cover ever. Hot on the inside, too. I won’t give anything away except to say that the second I finished each of these I flipped back to the first page to start over again.
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Nicole Sealey’s exquisite Ordinary Beast. Sealey is the mistress of craft.


Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ Mule & Pear. The poems in this collection are an incredible tribute to Black women writers –and their characters–across the last century. I turned to it immediately after hearing of Morrison’s death for a reminder of how stories sing across time and through dimensions.

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Soft Science by Franny Choi is elegant and devastating and dazzlingly inventive.


 Museum of the Americas by J. Michael Martinez and Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral are books I often return to, for both the writing and unparalleled vision of the border.

In their own crystalline way, each of these writers honors Toni Morrison’s famous words:
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge–even wisdom. Like art.”
PS, Can you stand how on point the poetry section at Santa Fe Public Library is? 

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