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Evie Shockley

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1965, 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 book, The Gorgon Goddess, was published by Carolina Wren Press in 2001. She is also the author of semiautomatic (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; the new black (Wesleyan University Press, 2011), which received the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry; 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 received the 2012 Holmes National Poetry Prize. She was awarded a residency at the Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers in 2003. 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.

Shockley was coeditor of the poetry journal jubilat from 2004 to 2007 and 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

14

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.

playing with fire

something is always burning, passion,
                        pride, envy, desire, the internal organs 
        going chokingly up in smoke, as some-
                thing outside the body exerts a pull
that drags us like a match across sand-
                        paper. something is always burning, 
        london, paris, detroit, l.a., the neighbor-

                hoods no one outside seems to see until 
they're backlit by flames, when the out-
                        siders, peering through dense, acrid,
        black-&-orange-rimmed fumes, mis-
                take their dark reflections for savages 
altogether alien. how hot are the london
                        riots for west end pearls? how hot in tot-

        tenham? if one bead of cream rolls down 
        one precious neck, heads will roll in brix-
ton: the science of sociology. the mark
                        duggan principle of cause and effect: 
        under conditions of sufficient pressure—
                measured roughly in years + lead ÷ £s—
black blood is highly combustible.

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