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Vievee Francis

Vievee Francis was born in West Texas. She earned an MFA from the University of Michigan in 2009, and she received a Rona Jaffe Award the same year.

She is the author of Forest Primeval (TriQuarterly Books, 2015), winner of the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award; Horse in the Dark (Northwestern University Press, 2012), winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize; and Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006). The poet Adrian Matejka describes her poems as “revelations—of memory, of dust, of the cotton and marginalia strung together to make a history.”

Of her own poetry, Francis says, “I’m very much saying that how African-American women are defined is inhuman in its narrowness, and that I, for one, am not going to allow it.”

The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and the Kresge Foundation, Francis currently serves as an editor for Callaloo and teaches English and creative writing at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.


Bibliography

Forest Primeval (TriQuarterly Books, 2015)
Horse in the Dark (Northwestern University Press, 2012)
Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006)

By This Poet

1

Given to Rust

Every time I open my mouth my teeth reveal
more than I mean to. I can’t stop tonguing them, my teeth.
Almost giddy to know they’re still there (my mother lost hers)
but I am embarrassed nonetheless that even they aren’t
pretty. Still, I did once like my voice, the way it moved
through the gap in my teeth like birdsong in the morning,
like the slow swirl of a creek at dusk. Just yesterday
a woman closed her eyes as I read aloud, and
said she wanted to sleep in the sound of it, my voice.
I can still sing some. Early cancer didn’t stop the compulsion
to sing but
there’s gravel now. An undercurrent
that also reveals me. Time and disaster. A heavy landslide
down the mountain. When you stopped speaking to me
what you really wanted was for me to stop speaking to you. To
stifle the sound of my voice. I know.
Didn’t want the quicksilver of it in your ear.
What does it mean
to silence another? It means I ruminate on the hit
of rain against the tin roof of childhood, how I could listen
all day until the water rusted its way in. And there I was
putting a pan over here and a pot over there to catch it.