The Page’s Turn: Praise for Gayl Jones’s Butter, Gabrielle Octavia Rucker’s Dereliction, and Evie Shockley’s suddenly we

“Fiery paper daisy”, Leon Brooks. Wikimedia Commons.

“the book is a three
dimensional scene of
our infinitely rich
and more unruly free-
dimensional jam, don’t
feel bad, it’s a volume
and a room
but the page is a plane.”
— “The red sheaves,” Fred Moten1

What might it mean to regard the page as a “plane”? Might dwelling with the page in this way and as its own environment and set of aesthetic experimentations be a mode of abiding by the book’s “three dimensional[ity]”?

This writing is at once moved by a celebratory interest and by an ongoing rethinking of books’ ecoaesthetic potentialities in the context of Black women’s writings. I began this essay by wanting to praise aesthetic enactments and innovations within recent books by Gayl Jones, Gabrielle Octavia Rucker, and Evie Shockley without trying to say something about the whole of them (books). And, after reflection, I think my resistance to the summative gesture has to do with my concern that it (summarizing) sometimes misses particular page’s aesthetic and ecological enactments, their (the page’s) status as somehow dimensional planes anchored by their own spatiotemporal (non-)specifities. The page as plateau or river basin, the page as a shapeshifting sky, the page as angle in a dream, the page as an event where a character interrupts the story’s linear passage. The page as a unique work of art. In that way, maybe it’s also about wondering if the summative gesture encloses, or somehow flattens, the hyperbolic flourishing and diaromatic (diorama, not diagram) potentiality of a singular poem, a specific passage, that hard-to-describe place where a paragraph went.  Not that the particular passages or excerpts in question are the only evidence of beauty. Not at all. But something happens on those pages (some of which buoy a poem in flight) that, for me, unsteadies even the idea that something singular can be said about the books as enclosed and discrete aesthetic objects.

With particular attention, then, to some pages of recent work by Shockley, Rucker, and Jones, I want to highlight the brilliance of these writers’ use of language, the turn of word as angularity and line and image and sound to make the event of writing and of the occasion of a passage a “hyperbolic” canvas-a turn of sculpture-a forgotten image in a camera-some brush strokes-a flight pattern-a place to live-a path taken in a dream.2 Put differently, in highlighting particular pages in Shockley and Rucker’s poetry collections suddenly we (2023) and Dereliction (2022) respectively, and in Jones’s book Butter (2023), I want to attend to particular intra-aesthetic turns that happen there.3 I’m interested in how these turns where a pen is a lens is a mound of clay is a paintbrush supports a modality of Black ecological surrealist visioning. A visioning that seemingly bends the page into other aesthetic enactments as the expression and protection of that vision. Arguably, through the poem form and through kinetic innovations in storytelling, Shockley, Rucker, and Jones highlight the page’s own planar specificity. The portals and paths it makes, the specifically remarkable event of more than one craft internally differentiating Black ecological and aesthetic possibility as it un/folds across the leaf.

That is, in Evie Shockley’s poetry book suddenly we, differently spaced-out words paint a photograph that becomes a bird in flight and all of that turns in and as the eco-alchemical asemic photo-ornithological work of a singular poem, “migratory patterns: birds of paradise”. And in Gabrielle Octavia Rucker’s debut poetry collection Dereliction, a photograph of sculptor Augusta Savage engaging in her beloved craft (appearing on the book’s cover) quite possibly moves into the anterior of Rucker’s writing. Maybe, as if holding the hand of a verse beckoning the sculptor and the unfinished child and bunnies into the curves of the word, all wet with clay, the gathering on the cover enters the open paths of the episodic long poem “Murmurs” such that all somehow can move into the dreamy ecologies it makes inside.

Through the dream of Rucker’s first long poem, perhaps the wet clay from the sculpture unsteadies the presumptive finishedness of the cover (as cover) to reveal the lie that those forms (writing, photography, and sculpture) were ever separate from each other in the first place. Or that the book isn’t somehow an open array of environments. Lastly, there’s Gayl Jones’s recent novella Butter from a collection by the same name which centers a Black woman photographer who understands photography as a process akin to writing poems. As with Jones’s 1999 novel Mosquito, the plot in Butter moves by ribbons, ocean waves of digression; in Butter it’s one of many digressions about this intra-aesthetic connection that blooms as my love for the whole of Jones’s collection. Powerfully, Jones’s digressions in a couple of the novella’s early pages provide instruction not only in how reading is continually taught by a book’s pages but, once more, how the event of art, following philosophers Denise Ferreira da Silva and Wilson Harris along with the poet artists above, has always been, perhaps, a practice of “difference without separability.”4

Indeed, the above meditation on picture-taking as poem-making is written by a novelist who, multi-talented to be sure, isn’t known as a photographer. Yet, in the novella Butter, Jones’s main character torques the line and makes the photographic a mode of poetic inhabitation and the page a mode of photographic anteriority. In fact, something I’m also realizing across all three passages (including one full poem) that I’m drawn to is that it’s precisely the photographic or a photograph that forms a kind of inner gravity for the interior/dreamy ecologies that open up on the page. That what each writer does through alchemizing an awning across and into forms-where photography’s interior finds undocumentable cover in the asemic, imagistic, sculptural turns of a poem or passages’ expanse—is align arts’ inseparability with other (sur)real earthly dimensions for Black flight and movement. Perhaps what this suggests is the impossibility of summary in the face of the page that is a photograph or a painting, an event of a half-disclosed dream or unlanded bird, the unfinished echo of poetry’s birth-story recorded but only half illuminated within a singular paragraph’s turning of glass.

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Book cover of Butter: Novellas, Stories and Fragments by Gayl Jones (Beacon 2023).

Butter is a collection of “novellas, stories and fragments” published by Beacon press. The novella Butter, one of three novellas in the book, centers a Black woman photographer, Odelle, as its main character. Some might say the larger story is about Odelle’s relationship with her estranged white mother, famous photographer Remunda. Indeed, throughout the novella and by way of this vexed relationship, themes of blackness and belonging, of whiteness and aesthetic universality, are often at the heart of how others see Odelle.

Yet, it’s Jones’s digressive storytelling across two particular pages—a scene in the novella where Odelle lyrically and aesthetically aligns writing poetry with the act of taking photos—that I want to attend. In this scene, Odelle is on a walk with her boyfriend Dante; they are on their way to get a bite to eat. As they stroll, Odelle finds herself looking at her reflection in different windowpanes of glass. She reflects on how she physically appears in them, fairer compared to Dante, even though “she feels like a darker woman” (7). The outside reflection in glass becomes an inward musing about the glass of her beloved camera lens, her reverie eventually turning toward poetry and its intimate correlation with photography. As an aside, any reader of Jones knows that this is how it goes. Jones’s genius as a writer is in the storytelling, in inviting the reader to listen to all of the different chords of the tale, from the putative plot points to the other off centered mind and he/art places the character travels.

For instance, as Dante and Odelle enjoy a meal in silence, she considers the mushrooms on her plate and “wonders how they’d look in photographs” (9). The novelist mentions prior to this that Odelle “had stopped photographing people and took up photographing things… she photographed everything: the corners of rooms, a pink radiator, a carpet stain, Scotch tape, butter… her favorite pictures were the ones she hadn’t intended, those she didn’t realize she’d taken until after she’d developed the photo” (3).

Notably, returning to that drift with the aesthetic potential of those mushrooms on her plate, Odelle’s thoughts soon turn to “a volume of contemporary American poetry Dante gave her… Even reading poetry makes her see things she’d like to photograph”. From unnamed poems, Odelle thinks of: “barrel cracks of plaster… the seal on the bottle… heads of nails… wires… limed rafters…” and from Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Boy Breaking Glass” (1987) and Imamu Amiri Baraka’s “Three Modes of History and Culture” (1969) a “cup of tea” and “windows” and “telephones” respectively (9–10). After quoting these photographable objects from Baraka, Odelle considers the poet’s phrase “All talk is energy” and it’s with this digressive shift in the storytelling and in the photographer’s reverie that Jones writes: “She liked to skim through the poems, building a collage of words and rhythms; said: enough sense loves beautiful shoes bluegreen doorframe the mirror meanwhile jiggle the contraption of your hidden equator” (9–10).

In this powerful reverie about a photographic intimacy with objects, engendered by the poetic encounter or a poetic intimacy engendered by a photographic encounter, Jones’s storytelling (facilitated by Odelle’s dreaming) further dissolves the borders separating artistic practices and climaxes into a sentence that blooms as a rattling collage. Normative syntax breaks down under the weight of all of the windows and doorframes gathered by the dream. Moreover, the sentence doesn’t space what is done from what is felt from color from sounds to geospatial fleshly poetic indeterminacy. Something intra-aesthetic forges in the writing—almost liked the page rotates hyperbolically and starts rolling like fly paper along the hard matter of the book spine, picking up those cups, shoes and mirrors. But not only does the page start to roll but when it rolls, a roll made possible by the dispensation with syntax engendered by the dreamy mode of letting all the words just come to the surface, the roll adjoins all the art practices into an ensemble of feltcolorsoundphotopoem.

I left Butter loving the novella because of what Jones does in that roll, in that particular arrangement, in the “bluegreen doorframe,” in helping me rethink the poem in relation to the photograph. I saw something about photography and its possibility by listening to the sound it makes in the jingling collage on the table, by the rustle of the teacup.

The late Guyanese philosopher Wilson Harris, in an interview with fellow poet philosopher Nathaniel Mackey, argues that a legacy of the Enlightenment is at once the violent division of ‘man’ from earth and an attendant separability of art forms (and their correlated practices). For Harris, the Enlightenment’s secularization of the world and its correlated banishment of myth and the unconscious resulted in the “sheat[hing] of “painting as painting, writing as writing, sculpture as sculpture. These divisions are prominent in the aesthetics of civilization” (220).5

But the “aesthetics of civilization” presumed the impossibility of Black women’s aesthetic experiences and, even more than that, that dreaming would occasion such possibilities. In Jones’s Butter, it is Odelle’s daydreaming in the material world catalyzed by the photographical poetic beauty of the mushrooms that dissolves the boundaries between forms. And what I love about Jones is how she always opens the page for dream drift time and, relatedly, subverts readers’ expectations of plot importance vis a vis the story’s unanticipatable unfolding. Dream times are key revelatory moments for character and, for Odelle, during the spacetime of this passage in Butter, the daydream occasions an intra- aesthetic dwelling with the beauty of the mushroom, the teacup, and other things small and of little “consequence” (9).

In the dream and in its dissolution of art’s formal divisiveness, how and what Odelle turns in glass is open to what and who she sees there, to what and who unfolds as private picture poem. A Black woman photographer who sees hears the poem in the photo-to-come of the mushroom, who lingers with beauty in the corner of a page while the world might miss that it happened there.

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Book cover of Dereliction by Gabrielle Octavia Rucker (The Song Cave, 2022); Image info: Augusta Savage looking at her sculpture in Harlem, New York City, New York, September 1938 © Hansel Mieth/The LIFE Picture Collection.

Gabrielle Octavia Rucker’s poetry collection Dereliction (The Song Cave) shares Jones’s artistic belief in the dream, how it presses against the space time of prose so that other arrangements might unfold across the page.

The cover of the collection features a photograph of African American sculptor Augusta Savage seen gazing, knowingly and with admiration, into the playful eyes of a clay child-holding-and-being held-by-bunnies she’s (the sculptor) yet to finish. There’s an invisible angle of vision ethereally linking and refusing to disclose, refusing to share, refusal being maybe part of Dereliction’s very promise, the title with the sight lines of child, bunny, and artist. What is made and held and unfinished perhaps trembling in the surreal dreamlike expanse of the mythically unmade which is where the first long poem of the collection, “Murmurs”, opens.

As the poet herself remarks, “Murmurs” is a “breech,” an “unravel[ing].”6 Written into what I perceive to be glimpses, the prose poem unfurls across forty-two pages. In two to three lined whispers to the reader at a time and as details about the narrator’s or narrators’ experiences at the beginning or end of some kind of alter/earthly dreamscape, the ‘where’ of “Murmurs” shapeshifts from swamps to unlocated kitchens and rooms, streetlamps, hills: “Peering in from the top I saw the maze of it. Those first few days wandering the river in search of a way to communicate through algae[…]” (14).

What is less and more, the lines of each passage are like a quiet record of an elusive gathering, some life-force already building, already humming, a making of community/communion that matters, that precedes and tunnels, in and under the page: “On top of my neck, a second head mounted in possession of speech[…]” (17). Dream-like, extraterrestrial, there’s an I-that-is-not-one ambling through an environment that on every page often feels new. A kind of wayward ecology without stratospheric separation, a ricocheting whirlwind of a para-world where comets dance with the mud. Where there aren’t flags but eyes and the unsteady peal of laughter.

Seemingly too, this often laughing I-who-might-also-be-“Many”-speaker of the poem is less interested in the whims of men than in the “bat trapped in the chimney,” the life sounds of “groundwater,” of swapping secrets with what is neither self nor same (33, 34, 42). The long poem’s unfurling passages undulate while splintering with this laughter, all along tending to the river and the ground, listening out for what the green, not what the god, might say about how to be here—amidst that which is neither named nor claimed—in the midnight hour. “Murmurs” hovers with and around the messages that come from “fennel bulb” and “hooves” and that radiate along the supernatural halo of charmed puddles and reptilian visions, in the dreamy ether of what doesn’t yearn to stand nor land (34, 27). And this isn’t a summary but only a glimpse, unsteady like trying to relate a dream using words alone.

Moreover, in the midst of these bent mirror glimpses, there’s a hill that hyperbolically emerges so that, I imagine, the life of Dereliction’s cover might move into the mythic field inside. Another reminder that this long poem is not an enclosure of its own but a daydreamy rustling in the wind and that, following the poet, “Murmurs” is a “breech,” a portal of a poem where the feet come through first. Indeed, this is where I saw some of what Jones does when she uses the dream to open writing enough so that a poem can take a photo. And a photo can keep kinship with the poem, hold hands, travel somewhere.

In particular, I witnessed this intra-aesthetic travel when I got to the following lines:

“You wait on your hill pouting, that big rabbit you like to bully pulling on the fringe of your skirt as if he might convince you otherwise, as if he won’t go wandering after you in a few days’ time, ilk after its own tethered to the same clay body” (28).

As with other passages in “Murmurs,” this thoroughfare of writing seemingly begins in the middle of a story. In this passage, there is an address to an invisible interlocutor. Yet, despite the outside-of-the-book appeal of the “you”, the evocation of the “big rabbit… pulling on the fringe of your skirt” seems to pull a canopy over the hill of this page. Most directly, it seems as if the “you” is either the sculptor Augusta Savage or the child she is in the process of making. The reference to the rabbit on the skirt along with the invocation of a “clay body” conjures the photograph on Dereliction’s cover.

What is more, once I perceived the “you” to be posed to the inhabitants of Dereliction’s cover photograph, seeing how the dreaminess of “Murmurs” softens the edges of the photo so that it can parachute into the interior of the poem-scape, I imagine the poem to be almost tented by an ethereal awning. The “you” shapeshifts a bit for me because even though the clay indicates that child in formation, the “bullying” suggests the manipulative (even if loving) hand of the artist, not necessarily the mischievous work of the child. Because it’s not clear, the stakes of Savage as sculptor then becoming at one with the clay, part of the same “ilk” as the child bunny, elaborates these tented lines’ unfinished, mythic possibility as perhaps an undisclosed scene of Black femme after/life, of im/possible passage. But it’s unclear because the poet doesn’t finish the story. There is no en/closure; that’s the beautiful point. “Murmurs” is a series of beautiful middles of dreams, canopied hills where artist and art will end where and as they will. 

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We don’t know whether Augusta Savage is on the hill in the middle of the middle that is Rucker’s “Murmurs”. It’s possible, depending on how you turn the words, that she is. Still, in an earlier part of the long poem, the narrator or narrators muse that “there is no formal, no one familiar body” (13). If, then, as a reader, we hold onto this earlier whisper as a kind of ecopoetical instruction on what it means to be in the wherethere of the alterverse that is this poem, then we should also heed fellow poet Fred Moten’s advice when he writes:

“Perhaps what it is to refuse the limits of the body is to refuse the limit as regulation in and for possessive individuation and to embrace the proliferation of limits’ irregular devotion to difference and blur.”7

This blur, engendered by the surrealist fantasy and dreamscapes of Rucker’s “Murmurs,” is seemingly how we don’t know where we are in the poem, where this place begins and in what dimension. It’s also a kind of spatiotemporal disorientation that corresponds with a blurring around the enclosures of body and form such that photos shapeshift into a verse of a poem, and that readers will never know whose feet come out first onto the page.

On a visual level, blurs ask the sighted to do some hard work. Sometimes it means bringing one’s book closer to the eye or having to look again at a page as if for the first time. Evie Shockley’s creative work in her poem “migratory patterns: birds of paradise”, in some ways, mobilizes the blur to defamiliarize how we understand what flight looks like. How, when Shockley holds a letter back a little to the left margin and spaces out the one that follows, the words of the poem seem to stretch into a line, a wing spans. How, when the poet repeats colons (colons which my tired eyes thought were stacked commas) between words such that they change the shape of the poem, something like a murmur/ation or other unnamed flight pattern forms depending on how you turn the page.

Book cover of suddenly we by Evie Shockley (Wesleyan 2023).

“Migratory patterns” is one of many poems referencing and arguably enacting a visual artwork, here a photograph (more on this in a moment) in Shockley’s latest poetry collection suddenly we (Wesleyan). The book consists of poems conceptually engaging the theme of community as it unfolds across a variety of political and world-historical contexts, ranging from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the unrelenting brutality of anti-black state (particularly, police) violence to the Black feminist intellectual and activist (and notably archival) worlds made by the names Ida B. Wells and Cheryl Wall demanded the world not forget.8 At the same time, as indicated above, there are beautiful poems where Shockley engages what Keguro Macharia calls “we-formations” as they flourish across an array of artists’ canvases.9

Turning to the poem in question, spending time with it, I think, requires looking at the art that it is devoted to, and I think that back and forth, that turning, that airy movement between art forms, is a powerful invitation that all three authors extend to their readers. In the case of “migratory patterns: birds of paradise,” that flip-flapping of pages perhaps is the (wing-sounding) background noise to this very moment of my writing. That is, at poem’s end, Shockley informs readers that this poem is “—after dannielle bowman’s October’s Shadows.”

In keeping with the rustle of wings, the back and forth movement of art forms, I’ll discuss the image first and then go to the poem and then back somewhere in between.

To begin, “October’s Shadows” is a black and white photograph of a sun-washed side of a home where surrounding trees cast a murmuational shadow onto a panel of ceiling-high blinds. The blinds are held open by a hand. “Shadows” is part of photographer Dannielle Bowman’s ensemble of photos titled What Had Happened (2020). This suite of photographs include black and white images of and from Bowman’s (extended) family’s homes and friends of the photographer’s family’s homes in present day Los Angeles, CA.10 The series of photos are notably everyday images, including framed portraits of loved ones, someone’s carpeted stairs, the shapes of a garden against sunlit shades. Bowman, in an interview, shares: “I have been touched by the Great Migration… my grandfather, for example, moved from Denton, Texas to LA when he was 11 in 1955 or so. So I was thinking basically about photographing his peer group, as a way to try to speak toward the broader migration.”

Dannielle Bowman, October’s Shadows, 2019.

As Bowman further muses, what’s important for her in the photos are ways to document the intimacy of “sense memories,” of the everyday reverberations of (a great) migration, what perhaps might resonate as a kind of shared homefeel among children of ancestors who took flight. For example, later in the interview, Bowman relates: “I had this other question. Just based on the personal experience of going to a friend’s house or a friend’s grandmother’s house or another Black person and seeing, feeling how in this home that I’ve never been in before, I feel at home. What is it about the things that they have in their homes, the photographs of people, the general feeling, the smell of the home? What is it about those homes that I feel so connected to, even when I have never been to them before?”11

There is a beautiful way that Shockley conceptually dwells, alongside Bowman here, with respect to a notion of “we” that floats above and around a place, floats above or around words, and where connection is sensed even if the actual flight feeling is not easily shared. For example, turning to Shockley’s “migratory patterns” now, the poem begins with a “we” held left by the placement of two colons side by side “: :” and some extra spacing between the subsequent phrases “flocked west like arrows,” “pointing toward” and “the elsewhere of” that stretch out as the opening line. The colons repeat on the next line to hold open and shape the inner left indent and curve of the first 8 lines of the poem to narrate a (great) migration west. Where “west” was “not a blank canvas” but a something felt while still unknown, perhaps “the quality of light” that the photographer saw in that carpeted staircase.12

Continuing, the phrase “pointing toward” is followed by “the elsewhere of unfreedom/ not imagining emptiness/ not a blank canvas/ but maybe/ a map less blanket/ed/saturate/d/ with/grief/wi/th/no.” It’s almost impossible to reproduce this poem in keeping with its spatial integrity. I tried and kept failing. But it’s important to restate that what Shockley beautifully does on the page is stagger the colons in such a way that the lines arch into the curve of a wing just as they conceptually describe flight. And, with that asemic bend, the phrases are spaced so that more air is required to read and perhaps, by implication, more air is required for the life that is the poem to fly.

As the lines of the poem expand with the extra spacing placed in between a single word and words—where such spacing bears the poet’s instruction that blankness is not nothingness—the possibilities of freedom alight in the realization that freedom is found not in the “map” but within the “no.” The poem’s expansive wingspan is sustained by all of what it carries: some refusal along with the “pinch of geechie in our pocket” and the “beauty in our way of doing.”

Notably, once “land [appears] in spitting distance”, there is a shift in the spacing. Words start to move closer together as the wings of this poem seemingly pull in toward its (the poem’s) beating center while, perhaps, abiding the earth’s gravitational pull. Here too, as the “we” gets closer to the line of “shadows of what green we can grow,” it gets nearer to where Shockley acknowledges Bowman’s “October’s Shadows” as poetic inspiration. A kind of photosynthetic opening on the page. An opening, somewhere between poetry and a photograph, where the poem basks in the light of “our radical ideas of liberation”, “ornament[ing] our lives” like “windows” rainbowed by the sun.

Moreover, awash by windowed harbors of “color and grace”, the poem’s concluding words read: “we are what we call home.” With this arrangement, Shockley conceptually and lyrically unmoors home from place and, in that poetic lift, “home” gets to fly a bit into and with the abstractional and ecological possibility opened up by Bowman’s photo.

Finally, as this beautiful poem turns with a photograph of a home that is a bird that is a flower, all of this shapeshifts into the sensed but hard to name play of light between words. What Shockley perhaps saw on that sun-washed shade was a murmuration of birds fluttering together, with the hand holding open the blinds somehow phantasmatically joining them in flight. Maybe the poem is like a familiar hand, something that joins what surrounds even if what shadowed the home is hard-to-differentiate when it interacts with the green. Maybe in the end, what produced the leafy birdy blur doesn’t matter; the warmth might really come from believing in the photograph and page themselves as other possible refractions of the sun.

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  1. Moten, Fred. Perennial Fashion Presence Falling (Seattle: Wave Books, 2023): 18.
  2. I follow trans studies scholar Jeanne Vaccaro’s brilliant elaboration of “hyperbolic” or non-Euclidean space in relation to theories of craft (crochet) and embodiment. In her essay “Feelings and Fractals: Wooly Ecologies of Transgender Matter,” Vaccaro writes: “A reorganization of form and matter, the hyperbolic dimension is suggestive of shapes that bodies make, and geometry — a study of shapes, figures in position, lengths, distance, volume, and properties of space — gestures to new kinds of relational identity and embodiment. The elliptical configurations of hyperbolic geometry and its myriad surfaces and points of intersection prompt us to reexamine how distance and difference are measured by proximity or belonging and on a horizontal-vertical grid of equivalences” (282). I extend Vaccaro’s theory of the hyperbolic in relation to the presumptively Euclidean phenomena of a book’s page. See: “Feelings and Fractals: Woolly Ecologies of Transgender Matter,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Vol. 21 (Number 2-3): 2015, 278.
  3. See the following full citations for Gayl Jones, Evie Shockley and Gabrielle Octavia Rucker’s latest books: Gabrielle Octavia Rucker. Dereliction. (Brooklyn, NY: The Song Cave., 2022); Evie Shockley. suddenly we. (Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2023). Gayl Jones. Butter: Novellas, Stories, and Fragments. (Boston: Beacon Press, 2023).
  4. Black feminist scholar Denise Ferreira da Silva coined the phrase “difference without separability” as a critique and intervention within a legacy of (post)Enlightenment discourse that figured all modes of difference on and with earth as the occasion of violence’s exercise and for the brutal imposition of racial, sexual and gender segregation and regulation in the invention of the human as man (and in the killing of the planet). Ferreira da Silva advances an ethic and politic of difference without separation as part of an expression of a Black feminist philosophical, ethical and ecological praxis. See: “On Difference Without Separability”, text by Denise Ferreira da Silva for the catalogue of the 32a São Paulo Art Biennial, “Incerteza viva” (Living Uncertainty); 2016.
  5. Mackey, Nathaniel and Wilson Harris. “Quantum Ghosts: An Interview with Wilson Harris,” from Discrepant Abstraction (Annotating Art’s Histories: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in the Visual Arts), edited by Kobena Mercer; (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006, 220).
  6. Mishler, Peter. 2023. “Gabrielle Octavia Rucker on the Power of Decentering Human Experience in Poetry,” Literary Hub (online), https://lithub.com/gabrielle-octavia-rucker-on-the-power-of-decentering-human-experience-in-poetry/.
  7. Moten, Fred. Black and Blur. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017): 259.
  8. I am indebted to the rich interview with Professor Shockley, held by Professor Britney Edmonds for the New Books Network podcast, https://newbooksnetwork.com/suddenly-we. In particular, it was helpful to hear Dr. Shockley describe the political and aesthetic range of the “we,” as it poetically unfolds across the book, the histories it bears, and how “suddenness” ironically challenges the logic that a pandemic inaugurates national consciousness and group responsibility, where it allegedly didn’t exist before.
  9. See Macharia, Keguro. 2015. “Mbiti and Glissant”, The New Inquiry (online blog post) https://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/wiathi/page/3/.
  10. As Bowman shares, while her photography involving the homes of “Black Baby Boomers” started in Los Angeles and with family and friends, it has “expanded well beyond LA; I’ve shot some on the East Coast now.”  See: Olsen, Katie. 2019. Interview: Photographer Dannielle Bowman.https://coolhunting.com/culture/interview-photographer-dannielle-bowman/.
  11. Olsen, Katie. 2019. Interview: Photographer Dannielle Bowman. https://coolhunting.com/culture/interview-photographer-dannielle-bowman/.
  12. Audre Lorde, “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, The Crossing Press Feminist Series, 1984: 36.