“The poems in Shadow Black move from startling moments of subtlety to satisfying passages of rant. Naima Tokunow is also a poet of the body, and in that tradition she calls for the liberation of the black body in particular: “It refuses. It declines. It makes its own.” I’m so glad to have these poems in my life.”
— Jericho Brown, Judge of the Chapbook Contest & author of Pulitzer Prize winning, The Tradition
“Shadow Black eludes and surprises, a palimpsest against which Naima Yael Tokunow projects the difficult ontology of a lyric identity destabilized by paradigmatic forces meant to corral queerness and femaleness and the facets of a bi-racial identity. Tokunow is a limber lyric poem with a diamond-hard edge that will ‘…find the way to make teeth/and to open [her] mouth for them…’”
— Carmen Giménez Smith, Co-Director of Cantomundo & author of Be Recorder
“Naima Yael Tokunow’s Shadow Black is one of those rare collections that punctures its reader with singular focus and force, lingering in the body like an unseen bruise. “I do not make Shadow Blacks, but I record them. On all of our bodies,” Tokunow writes. The work orbits around this figure, the poignant Shadow Black, a monster of racialized imagination—and investigates the central question: what does it mean to be seen while black in America? to “come up from the grave buzzing”? Tokunow is a poet of the body, searching every bit of flesh, soft and hard, for the reality of its history, of its wounds and its resurrections: including Charleston, including child birth, including the deaths of young black boys at the hands of police and headless girls forgotten, unclaimed. Shadow Black’s poems are tightly wound, angled with energy against their specific and deliberate forms, often prosaic, often menacing and eager for the soft mouth of a reader. Riding on the tension between academic, prophetic, elegiac and manifesto voices, Tokunow employs language that seeks moments of penetration and surprise. To experience this collection is to experience the myriad responses, violent and hopeful, to the projection hugging so much skin in America: Shadow Black.”
—Joshua Roark, Editor of Frontier Poetry
Featuring the lovely words of Kanika Agrawal, R. Cassandra Bruner, Kristin Chang, Yongyu Chen, Don Mee Choi, Natalie Eilbert, Jaimie Gusman, Taraka Hamada, Ava Hofmann, Amanda Kallis, Ndinda Kioko, Sabrina Li, Aurielle Marie, Sophie Paquette, Jake Syersak, Mwinji Siame, Billie R. Tadros, Tam(sin) Blaxter, My Tran, David Villaverde, Candice Wuehle!
Chapbook by Naima Yael Tokunow!
Cover artist Charlotte Edey!