Shockley, Evie

Shockley, Evie


  • Published Date: Wesleyan University Press, 2017

Evie Shockley

9780819577436 6cddaArt can’t shield our bodies or stabilize the earth’s climate, but Evie Shockley’s semiautomatic insists that it can feed the spirit and reawaken the imagination. The volume responds primarily to the twenty-first century’s inescapable evidence of the terms of black life—not so much new as newly visible. The poems trace a whole web of connections between the kinds of violence that affect people across the racial, ethnic, gender, class, sexual, national, and linguistic boundaries that do and do not divide us. How do we protect our humanity, our ability to feel deeply and think freely, in the face of a seemingly endless onslaught of physical, social, and environmental abuses? Where do we find language to describe, process, and check the attacks and injuries we see and suffer? What actions can break us out of the soul-numbing cycle of emotions, moving through outrage, mourning, and despair, again and again? In poems that span fragment to narrative and quiz to constraint, from procedure to prose and sequence to song, semiautomatic culls past and present for guides to a hoped-for future.

the new black

  • Published Date: Wesleyan University Press, 2011

shockley_2011Smart, grounded, and lyrical, Professor Shockley’s the new black integrates powerful ideas about “blackness,” past and present, through the medium of beautifully crafted verse. the new black sees our racial past inevitably shaping our contemporary moment, but struggles to remember and reckon with the impact of generational shifts: what seemed impossible to people not many years ago—for example, the election of an African American president—will have always been a part of the world of children born in the new millennium. All of the poems here, whether sonnet, mesostic, or deconstructed blues, exhibit a formal flair. They speak to the changes we have experienced as a society in the last few decades—changes that often challenge our past strategies for resisting racism and, for African Americans, ways of relating to one another. The poems embrace a formal ambiguity that echoes the uncertainty these shifts produce, while reveling in language play that enables readers to “laugh to keep from crying.” They move through nostalgia, even as they insist on being alive to the present and point longingly towards possible futures.

Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry

  • Published Date: University Of Iowa Press, 2011

altBeginning with a deceptively simple question—What do we mean when we designate behaviors, values, or forms of expression as “black”?—Evie Shockley’s Renegade Poetics separates what we think we know about black aesthetics from the more complex and nuanced possibilities the concept has long encompassed. The study reminds us, first, that even among the radicalized young poets and theorists who associated themselves with the Black Arts Movement that began in the mid-1960s, the contours of black aesthetics were deeply contested and, second, that debates about the relationship between aesthetics and politics for African American artists continue into the twenty-first century.

Shockley argues that a rigid notion of black aesthetics commonly circulates that is little more than a caricature of the concept. She sees the Black Aesthetic as influencing not only African American poets and their poetic production, but also, through its shaping of criteria and values, the reception of their work. Taking as its starting point the young BAM artists’ and activists’ insistence upon the interconnectedness of culture and politics, this study delineates how African American poets—in particular, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez, Harryette Mullen, Anne Spencer, Ed Roberson, and Will Alexander—generate formally innovative responses to their various historical and cultural contexts.  

Out of her readings, Shockley eloquently builds a case for redefining black aesthetics descriptively, to account for nearly a century of efforts by African American poets and critics to name and tackle issues of racial identity and self-determination. In the process, she resituates innovative poetry that has been dismissed, marginalized, or misread because its experiments were not “recognizably black”—or, in relation to the avant-garde tradition, because they were.

A Half-Red Sea

  • Published Date: Carolina Wren Press, 2006

Evie Shockley

altIn a half-red sea, Professor Evie Shockley’s first full-length collection of poetry, the poet presents public and private histories through a series of narratives, lyrical monologues, fantastic episodes, and imagined dialogues. These stories are enlivened and complicated by the poet’s careful attention to form and by her imaginative use of both free verse and received poetic structures. United by a voice that is both sure and supple, the poems here consider individual and collective American histories through a complex of lenses; matters of sex, race, culture, nationalism, and power are turned in the poet’s hands, revealing smooth planes and sharp edges. The result of Shockley’s attentiveness to language and to a complicated cultural and emotional record is a moving and surprising book that is “prickly with bloodless truths.”

The Gorgon Goddess

  • Published Date: Carolina Wren Press, 2001

Evie Shockley

altSeries editor David Kellogg says: "Is it one voice or many? Professor Evie Shockley's debut collection goes rapidly through keys and changes. Public presences are here—Miles Davis, Cicely Tyson, Anita Hill, Rosa Parks—but are caught up and transformed by Shockley's formal, lyric, and dramatic energies. These are poems crowded with life."