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Before the Night Wakes You

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"Len Lawson is an unflinching voice, whether he is condemning the blood on the hands of his country, exhuming blood-drenched Southern Soil, or exploring the blood in his own veins, his poems stare into the face of history, grief, and death while daring us to do the work of living." -Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, Author of Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation "The poems in Len Lawson's powerful collection Before the Night Wakes You speak to the African American experience in ways we all need to hear. Lawson creates a different form for each poem, as if he's reinventing a way to articulate his response to the brutality of race. From couplets to prose poems, from The Middle Passage to Black Lives Matter, he faces the truth head on. Part history, part social commentary, part eulogy, I highly recommend this collection to readers trying to find their way through the complexities of race relations. This is a voice that matters." -Marjory Wentworth, Poet Laureate of South Carolina "I saw my picture in the paper," Len Lawson writes, and it is that double imperative of representation and identification that drives this book. From Marky Mark to The Matrix, Lawson interrogates authenticities and appropriations of black culture, the risks and rituals of being black in a culture where we still have to insist that "black lives matter." This book is a marvel, moving from wildly inventive poems about black bodies in American culture and politics, to deeply moving personal poems about a father's death. If death haunts this book, it is Lawson's imagination and creative use of form and language that repeatedly lifts us, teaches us, gives us breath. -Ed Madden, Author of Ark

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