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Trouble the Water

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Winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize
Finalist for the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award
Finalist for the 2017 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry
Finalist for the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry
Finalist for the Norma Farber First Book Award


Rich in religious and artistic imagery, Trouble the Water is an intriguing exploration of race, sexuality, and identity, particularly where self-hood is in constant flux. These intimate, sensual poems interweave pop culture and history—moving from the Bible through several artistic eras—to interrogate what it means to be, as Austin says, fully human as a “queer, black body” in 21st century America.

"'Expect poison of the standing water,' Blake warned, highlighting the dangers of imaginative stagnation. I’m now tempted to believe that Blake himself has sent us Derrick Austin and his remarkable collection, Trouble the Water. At once gospel and troubadour song, these deeply spiritual and expansively erotic poems are lucid, unflinching, urgent. This is an extraordinary debut." —Mary Szybist, winner of the National Book Award

ISBN-13: 9781942683049

Media Type: Paperback(New Edition)

Publisher: BOA Editions Ltd.

Publication Date: 04-12-2016

Pages: 96

Product Dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.20(d)

Derrick Austin is a Cave Canem fellow and earned his MFA from the University of Michigan where he was awarded a Hopwood Award in graduate poetry. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Best American Poetry 2015, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, New England Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, The Paris-American, Memorious, and other journals and anthologies. He is the Social Media Coordinator for The Offing. Mary Szybist is most recently the author of Incarnadine, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. Her first collection of poetry, Granted, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the winner of the 2004 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, Szybist teaches at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Table of Contents

Foreword 8

Tidewater Psalm 15

Devotions 16

Okaloosa 17

Pass-A-Grille 19

Breakwater 20

Torch Song 22

Blaxploitation 23

Bow Down 25

Major Arcana: Judgment 27

We're Standing on the Sun 28

Catacombs of San Callisto 31

Sans Souci 32

Illumination 38

St. Sebastian's Executioner 40

Byzantine Gold 42

O-P-U-L-E-N-C-E 45

City of Rivers:

City of Rivers 47

Crown Glass 48

Fountain Statue 49

Effigy Without a Body 50

Antaeus 51

Cathedral 52

The Bait 53

Little Gospels 54

Ghost Slipper 55

Conveyance 56

No Union 57

Heaven and Earth 58

"Summertime" 61

Deep water 62

Apology 63

Persian Blue 64

Dominion 66

Jezebel 68

Cedars of Lebanon 69

Blue 71

Canaan 72

Dead Gull 73

Sleeping Alone 77

St. Mathew's Pentecostal Church 78

Primer for Sainthood 80

Sweet Talk 81

Magnolia 82

Sweet Boys 84

Visiting Mount Calvary Cemetery 85

At the Grave of Zora Neale Hurston 86

Vespers 87

Notes 89

Acknowledgments 91

About the Author 93

Colophon 96