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What Noise Against the Cane

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Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Poetry, this Yale Series of Younger Poets volume is a lyrical and polyvocal exploration of what it means to fight for yourself

“Bailey invites us to see what twenty-first-century life is like for a young woman of the Black diaspora in the long wake of a history of slavery, brutality, and struggling for freedoms bodily and psychological.” —Carl Phillips, from the Foreword

"Desiree C. Bailey sings true in her debut. Wherever this voice goes a Caribbean sun travels with it transfiguring what a maroon might overhear—a call awaiting response."—Yusef Komunyakaa

The 115th volume of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, What Noise Against the Cane is a lyric quest for belonging and freedom, weaving political resistance, Caribbean folklore, immigration, and the realities of Black life in America. Desiree C. Bailey begins by reworking the epic in an oceanic narrative of bondage and liberation in the midst of the Haitian Revolution. The poems move into the contemporary Black diaspora, probing the mythologies of home, belief, nation, and womanhood. Series judge Carl Phillips observes that Bailey’s “poems argue for hope and faith equally. . . . These are powerful poems, indeed, and they make a persuasive argument for the transformative powers of steady defiance.”

ISBN-13: 9780300256536

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Yale University Press

Publication Date: 04-13-2021

Pages: 96

Product Dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

Series: Yale Series of Younger Poets #115

Desiree C. Bailey is the author of the fiction chapbook In Dirt or Saltwater and has been published in Best American Poetry, Academy of American Poets, Callaloo, and elsewhere. She was born in Trinidad and Tobago, and grew up in Queens, New York. Her website is Carl Phillips is the award-winning author of fifteen books of poetry, most recently Wild Is the Wind and Pale Colors in a Tall Field. This is his tenth and final year as judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Table of Contents

Foreword Carl Phillips vii

Chant for the Waters and Dirt and Blade 5

Guesswork 36

Ma and the Snake 37

First American Years 38

La Divina Pastora, Mother of Miracles 40

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 42

Woman in Dub 44

Fleshed Cartographies: 46

Harriet Jacobs Grips the Silence 47

Malady 48

Dancing at the Shrine in Harlem 49

It's Risky to Love in the Season of Hunters 50

Island 52

A Retrograde 53

Orfeu Negro / Black Orpheus 54

Accent 57

Ex(ile) 58

Flowers Pressed to My Head 60

Chant for the Waters and Dirt and Blade (Slight Return) 67

Notes 75

Acknowledgments 77