In-Store: Poetry Night w/ Leila Mottley & Tatiana Johnson-Boria

woke up no light:

A poignant and rousing debut book of poetry from the former Youth Poet Laureate of Oakland, CA—the acclaimed, best-selling author of the novel Nightcrawling

Leila Mottley follows her trailblazing first novel with a perfectly pitched first collection of poems that demonstrate her spark and scope. woke up no light reckons with themes of reparations, restitution, and desire. Moving in sections from “girlhood” to “neighborhood” to “falsehood” to, finally, “womanhood,” these poems are the breathing life of a Black girl as she grows into adulthood, simultaneously youthful and profound. Each poem is a searing vignette, capturing the dissonance of Black girlhood through visceral language. The collection is sharp and raw, wise and rhythmic, a combination that lights up each page. From unearthing histories to searching for ways to dream of a future in a world constantly on the brink of disaster, Mottley sets forth personal and political revelation with piercing detail.

woke up no light confirms Leila Mottley’s arrival and demonstrates the enduring power of her voice—brave and distinctive and thoroughly her own.


Nocturne in Joy:

Tatiana Johnson-Boria's Nocturne in Joy is an exercise in Black vulnerability through poetry.

Johnson-Boria commands poetic forms flawlessly and fluently, using the form to her advantage in poems like Another Death, where the spacing between sentence fragments replicates the short anapestic breathing before death. With an unwavering voice turned towards the reality of growing up in a difficult childhood, within a larger oppressive system fueled by racism, sexism, and violence; this staggering collection offers glasses for a sharp-edged glimpse into what it is to be raised from a Black girl into a Black woman, and the trauma and healing born in the process.

Leila Mottley is the author of the novel Nightcrawling, an Oprah’s Book Club pick and a New York Times best seller. She is also the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. She was born and raised in Oakland, where she continues to live.

Tatiana Johnson-Boria is the author of the forthcoming book Nocturne in Joy (2023). Her writing explores identity, trauma, especially inherited trauma, and what it means to heal. She’s a recipient of distinguished fellowships from The Massachusetts Cultural Council, The MacDowell Residency, The Brother Thomas Fund, and others. She’s received honorable mention for the 2021 and 2020 Academy of American Poets Prize and is a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. Tatiana completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College and is a 2021 Tin House Scholar. She teaches at Emerson College, GrubStreet, Catapult, and others. Find her work in or forthcoming at Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, among others.