to be in & of (PB) (2023)

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Winner of the 2022 Palette Poetry Chapbook Prize, to be in & of is the debut chapbook of poet, anti-carceral advocate, and black studies scholar Joshua Aiken. Diving into the perils and contradictions of how black life is grieved in America, Aiken presses on the narratives of what it means to mourn, inherit, and belong. A meditation on family, loneliness, depression, and survivor's guilt, these poems break open new ways of living within loss and interrogating: "So who is this healing really for?"; With a sense of queer fury and alienation from the world as it is, to be in & of gives voice to speakers concerned with the "costs" of "getting better", the meaning of freedom, and the politics of how we stay alive. In the words of Contest Judge Chen Chen, to be in & of is a "collection full of wondering and wonderment"; and "a constellation of poems spilling over with the vast aches of a heart so attuned to life, loss, and more life." With poems written after poets like Essex Hemphill and Richard Siken, and for figures like the Godfather of House Music Frankie Knuckles, Aiken's language bubbles over with the prospect of more life: the uncertainty, the unpromised, the shadows and ghosts, and the fierce joys, pleasures, and spaces that remind one of all that's left unexplored. This debut invites its reader to be thoroughly entangled with the dead and the living; to delight in the messy process of belonging and becoming, and to experience the beauty of worlds one might someday know.


Joshua Aiken
Discover New Art LLC
Publication Date:
August 7, 2023

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