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October 3, 2017
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December 1, 2018
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v2.1 Reference


Art can’t shield our bodies or stabilize the earth’s climate, but Evie Shockley’s semiautomatic insists that it can feed the spirit and reawaken the imagination. The volume responds primarily to the twenty-first century’s inescapable evidence of the terms of black life—not so much new as newly visible. The poems trace a whole web of connections between the kinds of violence that affect people across the racial, ethnic, gender, class, sexual, national, and linguistic boundaries that do and do not divide us. How do we protect our humanity, our ability to feel deeply and think freely, in the face of a seemingly endless onslaught of physical, social, and environmental abuses? Where do we find language to describe, process, and check the attacks and injuries we see and suffer? What actions can break us out of the soul-numbing cycle of emotions, moving through outrage, mourning, and despair, again and again? In poems that span fragment to narrative and quiz to constraint, from procedure to prose and sequence to song, semiautomatic culls past and present for guides to a hoped-for future.


“Evie Shockley burns up the page with her new collection…. semiautomatic is a 21st century survival guide, fierce and full of compassion.”—Diana Whitney, San Francisco Chronicle

“[N]otable not only for the way it navigates questions of identity & politics, but for the variety & virtuosity of its use of form.” —Robert Archambeau, The Hudson Review

“...semiautomatic grapples with the violent imprint America has made upon black bodies through the ages.”—Tracy K. Smith, The New York Times, “Political Poetry Is Hot Again. The Poet Laureate Explores Why, and How”

“Ablaze with wordplay and formal ingenuity, Shockley's poems chronicle the horrors of the 21st century while igniting the imagination as an act of hope.”—John McMurtrie, San Francisco Chronicle, “Year in review: The best books of 2018”


"Evie Shockley suggests that poetry is necessary to seeing, surviving with equilibrium and wholeness in this period's vital and precarious junctures. The poems in semiautomatic are on fire. This will make an excellent source book of poetic form and historically grounded black aesthetics for the classroom." —Erica Hunt, Long Island University

"Evie Shockley's semiautomatic goes beyond mere weaponry.  This book is revelatory.  A tool in the chest of cultural workers, a vocabulary that resists decoration; this is self-portraiture and truth-telling at its best. From her epic 'the topsy suite' to her one-acts (a new form), through her fearless lens and appropriation of authorities, there's no level of denial or proof-vest that will protect you from Shockley's poetry.  You can run, Reader, but you will not be able to look the other way."  —Willie Perdomo, author of The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon

"This is an extraordinary, wonderful book. Evie Shockley is a great black poet. I know she might not put it that way, and sees all of what's problematic in my putting it that way. Her greatness is in that, too. She makes revolution irresistible just like she heard we should." —Fred Moten, author of The Little Edges

"There is no keener mind in American poetry than Shockley's, with her quick turns and inflections, slipping between subjectivity and documentary, between verse and refrain. Her poems engage—politically, formally, historically, profoundly—with the redistribution of power through language. Read this book and get shook." —D. A. Powell
Wesleyan University Press
Wesleyan Poetry Series

9780819577443 : semiautomatic-shockley
Paperback / softback
104 Pages
$15.95 USD
9780819577450 : semiautomatic-shockley
Electronic book text
104 Pages
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