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2023 Spring Poetry Books from RJFWA Women Writers Vievee Francis, Jennifer Grotz & Airea D. Matthews


(l-r): Vievee Francis, Jennifer Grotz (photo by Beowulf Sheehan), and Airea D. Matthews (photo by A. H. Jerriod Avant)


Vievee Francis (RJFWA ’09) The Shared World (Triquarterly Books, April 2023)

“The latest collection from award-winning poet Vievee Francis, The Shared World imagines the ideas and ideals and spaces of the Black woman. The book delves into inherited memories and restrictions between families, lovers, and strangers and the perception and inconvenient truth of Black woman as mother—with or without child. Francis challenges the ways in which Black women are often dismissed while expected to be nurturing. This raw assemblage of poetic narratives stares down the oppressors from within and writes a new language in the art of taking back the body and the memory. These poetic narratives are brutal in their lyrical blows but tender with the bruised history left behind. Francis's lyric gifts are on full display as she probes self-discovery, history, intimacy, and violence. Her voice encompasses humor and gravity, enigma and revelation. What emerges is a realm of intertwined experiences.”


Jennifer Grotz (RJFWA ’07) Still Falling (Graywolf Press, May 2023)

Still Falling expands on Jennifer Grotz’s precise sense of craft and voice to investigate new territory in this astonishing collection. These poems are emotionally raw and introspective, exploring the profound capaciousness of grief. Grotz carefully and deftly carries the weight of losses and their aftermaths—the deaths of the poet’s mentors, friends, and mother; the endings of relationships; and the enclosures of a life spent in attendance to the world in a state of wanting rather than truly living. Here also are poems that movingly and crucially decide what dedicating one’s life to poetry might require. But in the wake of painful loss, Grotz writes toward “this world, the living.” Her poems reveal and meditate on the paradoxical relationship between the literal and the figurative, at the heart of poetry itself, like the darkness and light of Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro. Still Falling is a book to be read slowly, calling readers back into the stillness of being, finding hope.”


Airea D. Matthews (RJFWA ’16) Bread and Circus (Scribner, May 2023)

“A powerful collection of autobiographical poems from Yale Younger Poets Prize Winner and Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate Airea D. Matthews about the economics of class and its failures for those rendered invisible by it. As a former student of economics, Matthews was fascinated and disturbed by 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith, and his magnum opus The Wealth of Nations. Bread and Circus is a direct challenge to Smith’s theory of the invisible hand, which claims self-interest is the key to optimal economic outcomes. By juxtaposing redacted texts by Smith and the French Marxist Guy Debord with autobiographical prose and poems, Bread and Circus demonstrates that self-interest fails when people become commodities themselves, and shows how the most vulnerable—including the author and her family—have been impacted by that failure. A layered collection to be read and reread, with poems that range from tragic to humorous, in forms as varied and nuanced as the ideas the book considers. Timely, ambitious, and relevant, Bread and Circus is a brilliant intellectual and artistic contribution to an ongoing conversation about American inequality.”


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