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Swing at your own risk

Swing at your own risk


Metta Sama


    2019, 128 pages

    ISBN 978-0932716903




    Swing at your own risk, structurally designed to swing from one subject to the next, from one lyric utterance to the next, concerns itself with unpacking myths of gender, race, sexuality, and violence (specifically myths of the scary black man in the U.S. and the scary black woman in the U.S.). Through formal and structural experimentation, the poems attempt to look at the varying issues in the U.S. that can rob humans of opportunities to be radically humane.




    A 2016 co-winner of the Robert H. Winner Award from Poetry Society of America, Metta Sáma is author of the chapbooks the year we turned dragon (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs), le animal & other creatures (Miel), After After/After “Sleeping to Dream” (Nous-zot Press) and Nocturne Trio (YesYes Books). Her debut poetry collection, South of Here, was a finalist in the Yale Younger Series Book Prize, the Paris Review Book Prize & the Stan and Tom Wyck Book Prize. South of Here was published by New Issues Press under Sáma’s legal name, Lydia Melvin. Sáma is a recipient of the Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship from University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Creative Writing Fellowship and residency scholarships from, most recently, Millay Colony for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the University of Missouri Writing Workshops—Athens.

    A literary scholar, prose writer, book reviewer, interviewer, and poet, Sáma’s work has been published in various anthologies and journals, including Reclaiming HomeRemembering MotherhoodRewriting History: African American and Afro-Caribbean Women's Literature in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge Scholars Press), Mentor & Muse: Writers on Writing (SIU Press), The Caribbean Woman Writer as Scholar: Creating, Imagining, Theorizing (Caribbean Studies Press), Femininities and Masculinities in Action: On Theory and Practice in a Moving FieldBluestemFeminist WireKweliHerkindThe VoltaLiterary HubBrooklyn MagazinePuerto del Sol’s Black Voices SeriesBest American Experimental WritingResisting Arrest: Poems to Stretch the SkyRed Sky: Poems on the global epidemic of violence against women, among others. She is a co-editor of the critical literary activism anthology Bettering American Poetry and has guest edited literary journals ReverieRed Leaf PoetryNorth America ReviewBlack Camera, and About Place Journal. Sáma is a fellow of the Black Earth Institute, a member of Black Radish Books Advisory Board, and Director of Center for Women Writers at Salem College, where she also serves as Director of Creative Writing and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing. 


    Swing at your own risk is a sweet science of vulnerability, power, rage, and grace in kinetic arcs of brilliant muscle. Hungered, sensual, thicketed with image and nailed into history, Sáma's poems are visionary manifestos of the body boiled in Black Woman bloodline. Herein lie all of risk's synonyms—Danger, Jeopardy, Peril—the avenues this poet ransacked to emerge smoldering, lifted, and luminous. Dare to enter here—risk it all to emerge the same.

    — Tyehimba Jess


    what if the body is not/sacred ground begins this book of profound ethical and spiritual grappling. Written in a moment when violent white supremacy and heterosexist misogyny continue to be well documented but rarely interrupted and running on a constant loop, these poems push us to pause, reflect, always (Selah) ask, "whose body, indeed whose life gets to be holy?" Utterly surging with the generosity of precision, this writing demands and rewards attention. Search no more for the poet/ who knows absolute darkness is the light. She is here. Li-Young Lee says, "There's eclipse, covering, and there's apocalypse, uncovering." And this book is, blessedly, a book of apocalypse.

    — TC Tolbert


    This haunting collection delves into the pleasures and erotics of the body, while also confronting the violence inflicted on the body by racism, patriarchy, religion, and the state. The poems are written in an avant-garde style, swinging across open compositions, lyric prose, and born-free verse. Throughout, Metta Sáma takes aesthetic and emotional risks to summon the embodied language of mourning and crave.

    — Craig Santos Perez


    The poems in Swing at your own risk risk risk. They bend toward and at meaning, history, word-purpose in a sometime-tragicomedy: the strike-out, the history of violence to black bodies. They come at language with a left hook and laugh. With gravity and careful takes, the poems address narrativity and colonizing language as they tangle and triumph. Taking on miscarriages of justice and of the body, they are assonant sticky, jaunt Bible stories as Hollywood movies, finger "dirty consonants of fingers"—the swerve and slide of words as words tell and complex us. Stunning.

    — Hoa Nguyen




    The Historical Imperative of Swing at your own risk, review by Alicia Wright, in Ploughshares


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