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Evie Shockley

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Evie Shockley received her BA from Northwestern University. After studying Law at the University of Michigan, she earned her PhD in English from Duke University.

Shockley's first collection, The Gorgon Goddess, was published by Carolina Wren Press in 2001. She is also the author of semiautomatic (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), winner of the Hurston/Wright Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; the new black (Wesleyan University Press, 2011), which also won the Hurston/Wright Award; 31 words * prose poems (Belladonna* Books, 2007); and a half-red sea (Carolina Wren Press, 2006).

Embracing both free verse and formal structures, Shockley straddles the divide between traditional and experimental poetics. A review of her work in Library Journal noted that, "Shockley’s work incorporates elements of myth without being patently 'mythical' and is personal without being self-indulgent, sentimental without being saccharine." Her reported influences include Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, and Harryette Mullen.

A Cave Canem graduate fellow, Shockley has received the Lannan Poetry Prize, the Stephen Henderson Award, and the Holmes National Poetry Prize.  Her poetry has also been supported by fellowships and residencies from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, MacDowell, and Hedgebrook. Two of her poems were displayed in the Biko 30/30 exhibit, a commemoration of the life and work of anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko, which toured South Africa in 2007.  Her poems have been translated into French, Slovenian, and Polish.

Shockley was coeditor of the poetry journal jubilat from 2004 to 2007 and the Poem-a-Day guest editor in August 2018. She teaches African American Literature and Creative Writing at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey.


Bibliography

semiautomatic (Wesleyan University Press, 2017)
the new black (Wesleyan University Press, 2011)
31 words * prose poems (Belladonna* Books, 2007)
a half-red sea (Carolina Wren Press, 2006)

Evie Shockley
Photo Credit: Stéphane Robolin

By This Poet

17

canvas and mirror

self-portrait with cats, with purple, with stacks
      of half-read books adorning my desk, with coffee,

                  with mug, with yesterday's mug. self-portrait
            with guilt, with fear, with thick-banded silver ring,

      painted toes, and no make-up on my face. self-
            portrait with twins, with giggles, with sister at

                  last, with epistrophy, with crepescule with nellie,
with my favorite things. self-portrait with hard

head, with soft light, with raised eyebrow. self-
      portrait voo-doo, self-portrait hijinks, self-portrait

                  surprise. self-portrait with patience, with political
            protest, with poetry, with papers to grade. self-

      portrait as thaumaturgic lass, self-portrait as luna
            larva, self-portrait as your mama. self-portrait

                  with self at sixteen. self-portrait with shit-kickers,
with hip-huggers, with crimson silk, with wild

mushroom risotto and a glass of malbec. self-
      portrait with partial disclosure, self-portrait with

                  half-truths, self-portrait with demi-monde. self-
            portrait with a night at the beach, with a view

      overlooking the lake, with cancelled flight. self-
            portrait with a real future, with a slight chance of

                  sours, with glasses, with cream, with fries, with
a way with words, with a propositional phrase.

the fare-well letters [excerpt]

dear ink jet,


          black fast. greasy lightning.
won't smear. won't rub off.
          defense: a visual screen: ask
an octopus (bioaquadooloop).
          footprints faster than a speed-
ing bully, tracking dirt all
          over the page. make every
word count. one. two. iamb.
          octoroon. half-breed. mutt.
mulatto. why are there so few
          hybrids on the road? because
they can't reproduce. trochee
          choking okay mocha. ebony,
by contrast, says so much.

effect shrewd preferences

the screed seen here blesses
        the sweet, the meek, the gentle,
                the serene. let eyes ensembled
peep the news sheets: ere
        december descends, we'll elect
                the next pres, reps, etc. when
we welter, cede the wheel,
        we let greed-questers enter
                (well-dressed jerks!). they send
themselves the green we need,
        help themselves fleece the sheep
                we be. we're the perfect prey!
the press sleeps the sleep we
        deserve, then bleeds berserk
                text between celeb tweets. we'd
best reject the mess, steer
        the fleet between these repellent
                hells. veer! swerve! reverse!
here's the pledge: we'll expect
        better press. elect the decent
                men, the keenest shes. revere
sense. never feed spleen lest
        we weep endless weeks, red-
                eyed, bereft. let excellent pens
represent the experts' ken, help
        peeps remember key elements.
                let's select well. we'll revel yet.

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