On Our Shelves Now
From "one of the most impressive voices in poetry today" (Dissent magazine), a new collection that shines a light on forgotten or obscured parts of the past in order to reconstruct a deeper, truer vision of the present
Gregory Pardlo described Joshua Bennett's first collection of poetry, The Sobbing School, as an "arresting debut" that was "abounding in tenderness and rich with character," with a "virtuosic kind of code switching." Bennett's new collection, Owed, is a book with celebration at its center. Its primary concern is how we might mend the relationship between ourselves and the people, spaces, and objects we have been taught to think of as insignificant, as fundamentally unworthy of study, reflection, attention, or care. Spanning the spectrum of genre and form--from elegy and ode to origin myth--these poems elaborate an aesthetics of repair. What's more, they ask that we turn to the songs and sites of the historically denigrated so that we might uncover a new way of being in the world together, one wherein we can truthfully reckon with the brutality of the past and thus imagine the possibilities of our shared, unpredictable present, anew.
About the Author
Poet, performer, and scholar Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School. He received his PhD in English from Princeton University, and is currently Mellon Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. His writing has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. His book Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man will be published by Harvard University Press in February 2020. His first work of narrative nonfiction, Spoken Word: A Cultural History, is forthcoming from Knopf. He lives in Boston.
Praise for Owed:
“Themes of praise and debt pervade this rhapsodic, rigorous poetry collection, which pays homage to everyday Black experience in the U.S. . . . Bennett conjures a spirit of kinship that, illuminated by redolent imagery, borders on mythic, and boldly stakes claim to ‘some living, future / English, & everyone in it / is immortal.’” —The New Yorker
“Bennett captures the beauty of what really matters in life—the memories, youth sports, family traditions and little moments that many of us take for granted . . . [Owed] couldn't have been more timely.” —Salon
“Not only are these poems eloquent but also lyrical, intelligent, and, occasionally, funny. Most reflect upon and communicate the pain, joy, and intensity of the current Black experience . . . In a time when many confront and protest the racism prevalent in our society, Bennett’s new book is vital.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“[Owed] intertwines the author’s multifaceted professions as poet, performer, and professor through powerful, crisp poems that celebrate the complexity, joy, and heartbreak of the Black experience in America . . . Bennett’s poems are more necessary than ever.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[A]stonishing poems that explore the past, childhood, family relationships, identity, and memory among many other themes, all expertly rendered through a mixture of forms . . . [Bennett] has a gift for building and setting vivid scenes and complex stories within the small frames of his stanzas.” —Booklist
“We’re lucky to have Joshua Bennett’s Owed at this hour in America. The resonances of ‘ode’ and ‘owed’ underscore his tremendous acts of invention amid ‘an ever-expanding grand Black Epilogue.’ Lyrical and political fibers are woven through narratives as clear and idiosyncratic as the plastic on your grandmother’s couch. Owed fights for the ‘ground where the children can play & come home whole.’ Bennett swings with song and exaltation; he swings with resistance and defense. I’m glad to have his amazing collection right now. I will be glad to have it tomorrow.” —Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
“Owed is an indictment of the state even as it is an ode to the ongoingness of Black imagination. Here, a single moment shimmers with a million resonances of attention. So the world is loved this much. And what has been taken has been taken this much. Bennett insists on repair even as he mourns what is utterly irreparable. This book is part of a breathful, bodied fight for Black life. I am emboldened and sharpened by Bennett's genius and by his love made plain across each of these shimmering pages.” —Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria