“Honoree Jeffers is an exciting and original new poet, and The Gospel of Barbecue is her aptly titled debut work. These poems are sweet and sassy, hot and biting, flavored in an exciting blend of precise language and sharp and surprising imagery that delights. They leave a taste in your mouth, these poems; they are true to themselves and to the world. They are gospel, indeed, and this young poet will be heard more and more spreading the true word. Good news!”
—Lucille Clifton, 1999 Stan and Tom Wick Prize Judge
Fierce and sensual, the poems in Outlandish Blues merge everyday speech with a shimmering lyricism and burst from the page into song. Honorée Fanonne Jeffers sees the blues, what she terms the “shared ‘blue notes,’’’ as an important intersection between the secular and the divine, and between the various African American vernacular traditions, from spirituals to jazz. Part Nina Simone, part Bessie Smith, her poems are filled with a sweaty honesty, moving from the personal to the collective experience. This movement is often accomplished through the use of personae, concentrated here in a stunning series of poems on the Biblical figures of Hagar and Sarah. Whether about a contemporary domestic scene, a slave ship, or Aretha Franklin, these are poems that speak to the soul of experience.
“I am struck by the boldness of this poetry, the musicality, and the sense of historical and spiritual matters. This is a powerful new voice.” —Cynthia Hogue, author of The Never Wife
“Outlandish Blues is a book as wide-open-armed and as terrifying as the blues themselves. What violence and grief, and sweetness too! These poems will bring you to your knees with their tough, wild beauty.”
—Maggie Anderson, author of Windfall: New and Selected Poems
In her third book of poems, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers expresses her familiarity with the actual and imaginary spaces that the American South occupies in our cultural lexicon. Her two earlier books of poetry, The Gospel of Barbecue and Outlandish Blues, use the blues poetic to explore notions of history and trauma. Now, in Red Clay Suite, Jeffers approaches the southern landscape as utopia and dystopia—a crossroads of race, gender, and blood. These poems signal the ending movement of her crossroads blues and complete the last four “bars” of a blues song, resting on the final, and essential, note of resolution and reconciliation.
“Honorée Jeffers leads with her ear and follows with her rigorous intellect, then adds an emotional depth and fearlessness that make her poems uniquely powerful. This brilliant third book is a thinking woman’s blues that continues to challenge, delight, and terrify.”
—Elizabeth Alexander, author of the Pulitzer Prize–nominated American Sublime and Official Poet of President Barack Obama’s Inauguration