In her third book of poems, Honoree Fanonne Jeffers expresses her familiarity with the actual and imaginary spaces that the American South occupies in our cultural lexicon. Her two earlier books of poetry, The Gospel of Barbecue and Outlandish Blues , use the blues poetic to explore notions of history and trauma. Now, in Red Clay Suite , Jeffers approaches the southern landscape as utopia and dystopia - a crossroads of race, gender, and blood. These poems signal the ending movement of her crossroads blues and complete the last four bars of a blues song, resting on the final, and essential, note of resolution and reconciliation.
A soaring, sweeping, truly beautiful and far-reaching novel that calls for emotions to respond on every level. Ailey’s maternal line has lived in a small Georgia town since arriving from Africa in bondage, as she grows up she begins to uncover her family’s past. Author Honoree Fanonne Jeffers is a published award-winning poet, and it shows. This debut novel feels urgently and vibrantly alive and yet also slips into feelings like a lyrical dreamy song. While Ailey and her family remain as a constant through the book, other stories enter and initially read as a separate tale before slowly joining to create a whole. I felt as though I was part of a wave on the ocean and I was gathered in to live in each moment. This story breathes. It exists. It was. It will be. The intensity of the pain flows through every page, gaining strength, knowledge, and love. Already published in the US, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois was chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick, it was a New York Times bestseller, and the Washington Post stated it is: “The kind of book that comes around only once in a decade”. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow yourself to feel, to soak up the words. I hope you get a sense in my review of just how stunning it is. For me, it’s a must-read and I will be recommending this book far and wide. Both hugely epic and intimate in scale, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is extraordinarily powerful. Convincing and commanding, we declare it a LoveReading Star Book as well as Liz Pick of the Month, it deserves to be on everyone’s reading lists and a future classic.
In 1773, a young, African American woman named Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry that challenged Western prejudices about African and female intellectual capabilities. Based on fifteen years of archival research, The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley's age -the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade. For the first time in verse, Wheatley's relationship to black people and their individual mercies is foregrounded, and here we see her as not simply a racial or literary symbol, but a human being who lived and loved while making her indelible mark on history.
In her three previous, award-winning collections of blues poetry, Honoree Fanonne Jeffers has explored themes of African American history, Southern culture, and intergenerational trauma. Now, in her fourth and most accomplished collection, Jeffers turns to the task of seeking and reconciling the blues and its three movements - identification, exploration, and resolution - with wisdom. Poems in The Glory Gets ask, What happens on the road to wisdom? What now in this bewildering place? Using the metaphor of gets - the concessional returns of living - Jeffers travels this fraught yet exhilarating journey, employing unexpected improvisations while navigating womanhood. The spirit and spirituality of her muse, the late poet Lucille Clifton, guide the poet through the treacherous territories other women have encountered and survived yet kept secret from their daughters. An online reader's companion will be available.
Fierce and sensual, the poems in Outlandish Blues merge everyday speech with a shimmering lyricism and burst from the page into song. Honoree Fanonne Jeffers sees the blues, what she terms the shared 'blue notes,''' as an important intersection between the secular and the divine, and between the various African American vernacular traditions, from spirituals to jazz. Part Nina Simone, part Bessie Smith, her poems are filled with a sweaty honesty, moving from the personal to the collective experience. This movement is often accomplished through the use of personae, concentrated here in a stunning series of poems on the Biblical figures of Hagar and Sarah. Whether about a contemporary domestic scene, a slave ship, or Aretha Franklin, these are poems that speak to the soul of experience.