A fresh and rebellious poetic voice, Airea D. Matthews debuts in the acclaimed series that showcases the work of exciting and innovative young American poets. Matthews’s superb collection explores the topic of want and desire with power, insight, and intense emotion. Her poems cross historical boundaries and speak emphatically from a racialized America, where the trajectories of joy and exploitation, striving and thwarting, violence and celebration are constrained by differentials of privilege and contemporary modes of communication. In his foreword, series judge Carl Phillips calls this book “rollicking, destabilizing, at once intellectually sly and piercing and finally poignant.” This is poetry that breaks new literary ground, inspiring readers to think differently about what poems can and should do in a new media society where imaginations are laid bare and there is no thought too provocative to send out into the world.
"Rebellion is the first word that comes to mind, when reading simulacra, Airea Matthews’s rollicking, destabilizing, at once intellectually sly and piercing and finally poignant debut. The main rebellion here is against all formal expectations of what a book of poetry is or ‘should’ be – Narcissus communicates by Tweets, Anne Sexton sends texts from death to a recipient who may or may not be dead; there’s a miniature opera; there are upended nods to the epistolary tradition, prose poems, even a Barthes-influenced calculus...but a particular constant is the theme of wanting: on one hand, wanting as desire, for safety, for faith, for a way to know the self; and on the other hand, wanting as lack, lack both as emptiness and as a motivating force behind the quest for an end to emptiness. And if language itself is empty, and all we have, when it comes to knowing? This is the governing, haunting question behind these always meaningfully provocative poems – poems, yes, but very much, also, poems as epistemology.” - Carl Phillips
Airea D. Matthews is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection simulacra (Yale University Press, 2017), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets. Matthews received an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ program at the University of Michigan, where she is currently the assistant director; she also serves as executive editor of The Offing. A Cave Canem Fellow and a Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, Matthews lives in Detroit.
You Envelop Me, a book length poetic elegy, takes its title from the thirty-second psalm, and explores connections between birth and loss. How does one in mourning converse with those absent, yet ever present? These poems seek to enter that sturdy edifice of emptiness, wherein time is suspended, and one is paradoxically held by the departed. How is a motherless daughter conceived? What befalls those who succumb to waves of grief akin to contractions of birth? You Envelop Me is woven from contemplative practices which permit us to approach the unimaginable. The world with the beloved removed is permanently altered, perhaps most significantly in the way the living learn that indispensible vision occurs beyond the visible world.
"Laynie Browne’s You Envelop Me, written in the tradition of elegy, attempts to come to terms with the continuing presence of absence. The work calls to mind the recent work of Susan Howe (This That) and Cole Swensen (Gravesend) as Browne locates the departed as motion, a wave, birdlike. Mourning in these captivating poems becomes it’s own birth–a birth where death engenders new life, and changes the terms of what it means to be alive inside grief, within a word, in this world." - Claudia Rankine
Laynie Browne was born and raised in Los Angeles. She earned a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA from Brown University. She is the author of thirteen collections of poems and three novels. Her honors include a 2014 Pew Fellowship; a National Poetry Series Award for The Scented Fox (2007), selected by Alice Notley; a Contemporary Poetry Series Award for Drawing of a Swan Before Memory (2005); and residencies at The MacDowell Colony. Her poetry has been translated into French, Spanish, Chinese, and Catalan. She teaches at University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College.