It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
"In Deifying a Total Darkness, upfromsumdirt makes poetry-philosophy-cosmology-physics-literature-history travel to potential pasts, futures, and still-unset presents. Formally dazzling and brilliantly opaque, the poems spar and sing to make art beyond the decloaked ruses of colonialist (ir)rationality. 'When's the last day you weren't force-fed enlightenment?' With this ravenous, tender, multiply erudite book, we learn to unlearn the naturalized premises of a violently defended hegemonic fragility. What a pleasure to dwell awhile in the spaces opened by these beautiful poems!"--Laura Elrick "Traveling instantly through time, existing inside and outside of history, upfromsumdirt investigates the tragic ironies by which the 'moss-grown' scars and still-open wounds of the Atlantic slave trade and colonialism have become, whether we'll admit it or not, nothing less than 'a modern currency:' *fundamentally constitutive* of modernity and beyond, at the very core of who we all are, the societies we live in and by, the art we make. This omnivorous, surprising debut draws on numerous historical resources and traditions--for instance, the great pan-Africanist abstract futurist traditions, or histories of science and painting, or inheritances of 'long / jarring prose'--and extends and recombines them in new and bracing ways. Reveling in vocabulary and in the possibilities of the English language, infinitely dexterous, bristling with wit, joy, self-awareness and awareness of the conditions and limits of poetic practice and the po-biz, this is an unapologetically maximalist poetry with a simple and deadly serious non-assimilationist 'goal: / to not be you.'"--Vivek Narayanan
The title of this new volume of poetry by upfromsumdirt packs a lot of meaning and intention into a mere three words. It is dedicated to Emmett Till, and more recent Black victims of violence, and is entirely an urgent demand for social justice. But don't be fooled by the play on words, for upfromsumdirt isn't playing around here. This isn't a poet merely having fun with language (well, there are points where he clearly is enjoying himself), but rather a reclaiming and reinvention of language in order to engage it in the serious work at hand. In "Tea with Bojangles" he proclaims "reinvisionism is a freedom / if not a luxury, the tongues of your / indignant gods in my painted mouth like / a mud dauber in pink cotton candy..." He knows that words have power to sting, and one word that he uses repeatedly is "Africadabra," an act of conjuring, invoked to break "connection to the God of Chains... / His shackles left you spouting slave-words / from your spirit..." He knows the very language in which he writes is a legacy of slavery, and he shatters and reforges it, breaking the chain, making it a new thing. Freeing it, and with it himself, and us. There is also a ring of science to the title, suggesting light emanating from excitation, which is no accident, for upfromsumdirt often employs the language of science, and science fiction, in his work, connecting it to Afrofuturism and the projection of a future embracing Blackness. In "Black Wholeness: A Theorem," he hypothesizes that "thick = dark thighs x 40 thieves to the power of mules," and enjoins us to "please discount all that you believe about gravity // in the romanticism of such lightless / reality a poem for love is born... [S]hit happens when we raise accountants / instead of wizards," he laments in "Playdates for Zombied Heads of State," anxious over the world awaiting his six-year-old son. "[I]t's as I always say: // a people without the science / to contort their skin into myth / abort the realities they want..." As a talisman against "walking rigor mortis" he places his "solemn black word" beneath the boy's pillow. And in this volume, upfromsumdirt, wizard and poet (for are they not the same thing?) has placed many solemn black words in our ears, in hope that we might hear, and heed.