A Swallow Press Book
By Bernard Clay
“There is no other poet living or dead that I can say this about, but I’ve been waiting on a book from Bernard Clay for more than twenty years. Every time I’ve ever read a single poem by him or heard him read a poem aloud I’ve wanted a volume of his work in my hands. He’s always had the ability to slice truth down to the bone and hold it up to the light. He’s grown more wise and his skills are sharp. I’m thankful these words are in the world and I’m certain that every reader who reads them will feel the same way.”
Crystal Wilkinson, author of The Birds of Opulence and founding member of the Affrilachian Poets
“Clay’s work sings in surprisingly traditional style sometimes, but then pushes staccato beats to bring home the points his sharp eye sees, in matters of concern as varied as dealing with natural hair (‘Kinky Birthright,’ ‘Mr. Nap’s Fight’) to getting unreassuring looks as a Black man enjoying nature (‘Born Trekker’).”
T. E. Lyons, LEO Weekly
“English Lit is a stunning debut collection by Bernard Clay that journeys through the speaker’s youth and the pain and trauma of poverty and racism. Clay artfully brings to life the African American Appalachian – Affrilachian – experience with the tenacity of bluegrass busting up through potholed pavement and the warmth and beauty of a smooth blue aster blooming in the Appalachian sunshine.”
Southern Review of Books
“Here’s our Affrilachian progeny’s first book. Crafted with a Black farmer’s heart, the poems in English Lit blast off from the West End (the best end) into a brave new world. One of the most rooted and nappiest voices of his generation, Clay delivers a beautiful tribute to his people, his community, and his generation’s dance with words, adding his name to the litany of Kentucky poets who love both the land and its people.”
Frank X Walker, author of Affrilachia and founding member of the Affrilachian Poets
Autobiographical poetry from one of Kentucky’s rising Affrilachian literary stars.
Bernard Clay’s autobiographical poetry debut, English Lit, juxtaposes the roots of Black male identity against an urban and rural Kentucky landscape. Hailed as one of the most authentic voices of his generation, Clay artfully renders coming-of-age in the predominately Black West End of Louisville, Kentucky. Balancing the spirited grit of a farmer and the careful lyricism of a poet, English Lit is a triumph of new Affrilachian—African American and Appalachian—literature.
Bernard Clay is a Louisville, Kentucky, native who grew up in the shadow of the now demolished Southwick housing projects on the West End of town. Clay received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Kentucky Creative Writing Program and is a member of the Affrilachian Poets collective. He currently resides on a farm in eastern Kentucky with his wife, Lauren. English Lit is his first book. More info →
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In this collection of African American and Appalachian poetry, Frank X Walker continues the brilliant autobiographical journey of Affrilachia, his groundbreaking first volume of poems.
A new collection of persona poems from award-winning poet Frank X Walker that tell the untold story of legendary African American jockey Isaac Burns Murphy (1861–1896).
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