Cynthia Manick with Amber Flame, Luther Hughes, & Anastacia-Reneé

Cynthia Manick reads from her recently released collection No Sweet Without Brine, alongside poets and friends of the store Anastacia-Renee, Amber Flame, and Luther Hughes.

No Sweet Without Brine is both a soulful and celebratory collection that summons sticky sweet memories with an acrid aftertaste of deep thought. Satisfying moments are captured in odes to Idris Elba’s dulcet tones on a meditation app and the satisfaction of half-priced Entenmann’s poundcake; in childlike observations of parental Black love, the coveted female form on Jet Magazine covers, and the desire for Zamunda to be a real place full of Black joy. The sour taps into an analysis of reclusiveness, silencing catcalls from men on the street, and detailed recipes and advice to the Black girls forced to endow themselves with armor against the world.

Cynthia Manick’s latest is a playlist of everyday life, introverted thoughts, familial bonds, and social commentary. In piercing language, she traces the circle of life for a narrator who dares to exist between youthful remembrances and adulthood realities. Each poem in No Sweet Without Brine is a reminder that a hint of sorrow makes the celebration and recognition of the glory of Blackness in all ways, and through all people, that much sweeter.

Cynthia Manick is the author of No Sweet Without Brine (Amistad-HarperCollins, 2023), which received 5 stars from Roxane Gay and was selected as a New York Public Library Best Book of 2023; editor of The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry; winner of the Lascaux Prize in Collected Poetry; and author of Blue Hallelujahs. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and Château de la Napoule among other foundations. For 10 years she curated Soul Sister Revue, a quarterly reading series that promoted poetry as storytelling and featured emerging poets, poet laureates, and Pultizer Prize winners. Her poem “Things I Carry into the World” was made into a film by Motionpoems and has debuted on Tidal for National Poetry Month. A storyteller and performer at literary festivals, libraries, universities, and museums, Manick’s work has also featured in VOICES, an audio play by Aja Monet and Eve Ensler’s V-Day, the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day Series, Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus and other outlets. She currently serves on the editorial board of Alice James Books. She lives in New York but travels widely for poetry. 

Amber Flame is an interdisciplinary artist whose work garnered residencies with Hedgebrook, Vermont Studio Center, and more. Her first poetry collection, Ordinary Cruelty, was published through Write Bloody Press, and her second, apocrifa, was published by Red Hen Press. Flame is a recipient of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture’s CityArtist grant and served as Hugo House's 2017–2019 Writer-in-Residence for Poetry. Flame’s work featured in Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19. She is Program Director for Hedgebrook, a residency for women-identified writers. Amber Flame is a queer Black dandy in Tacoma, Washington, who falls hard for a jumpsuit and some fresh kicks.

Luther Hughes (they/them) is the author of A Shiver in the Leaves (BOA Editions, 2022), listed as best books of 2022 in The New Yorker, and the chapbook, Touched (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018), recommended by the American Library Association. They are the founder of Shade Literary Arts, an organization for queer writers of color, and cohosts The Poet Salon Podcast with Gabrielle Bates and Dujie Tahat. Recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Rosenberg Fellowship and the 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize, they received their MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. Their writing has been published in The Paris Review, Orion, American Poetry Review, and others. They’ve been featured in The Seattle Times, Forbes, Essence, KUOW Public Radio, The Slowdown, and more. Luther lives in Seattle, where they were born and raised.

Anastacia-Reneé is an award-winning cross-genre queer writer, educator, interdisciplinary artist, TEDX speaker and former Seattle Civic Poet. She is the author of Side Notes from the Archivist, (v.), and Forget It. Her mixed media art has been exhibited at the Fry Art Museum and her installation, “Don’t Be Absurd (Alice in Parts),” was chosen by NBC as one of the “Queer Artist of Color Must See LGBTQ Arts Shows.” She has received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Artist Trust, Ragdale, Mineral School and others. Reneé’s poetry, fiction and nonfiction has been anthologized and published widely. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.