The latest collection from award-winning poet Vievee Francis, The Shared World imagines the ideas and ideals and spaces of the Black woman. The book delves into inherited memories and restrictions between families, lovers, and strangers and the perception and inconvenient truth of Black woman as mother—with or without child. Francis challenges the ways in which Black women are often dismissed while expected to be nurturing. This raw assemblage of poetic narratives stares down the oppressors from within and writes a new language in the art of taking back the body and the memory. These poetic narratives are brutal in their lyrical blows but tender with the bruised history left behind. “You can’t stop this / song,” she writes. “More hands than yours have closed / around my throat.”
Francis’s lyric gifts are on full display as she probes self-discovery, history, intimacy, and violence. Her voice encompasses humor and gravity, enigma and revelation. What emerges is a realm of intertwined experiences. “The secret to knowing the secret is to speak,” she concludes, “but we too often tell / the stories of no matter and avoid the one story that does matter. / In truth, we are bound by one story, so you’d think by now / we’d tell it, at least to each other.”
About the Author
VIEVEE FRANCIS is the author of three previous books of poetry: Blue‑Tail Fly; Horse in the Dark: Poems, winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize for a second collection; and Forest Primeval: Poems (TriQuarterly), winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. In 2009 she received a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award and in 2010 a Kresge Fellowship. She is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College and serves as an associate editor of Callaloo.
“Vievee Francis is, undoubtedly, one of the most compelling poets alive and writing today. In her fourth book, The Shared World, she charts a course of how entangled all of our lives are in today’s world. Who do we share the world with? Who do we ignore? What does it mean to live so closely in proximity to each other and to have such deeply complicated histories? At the heart of this book is this truth: what is the telling, and how do we go about the ways of doing so? With bravery, Francis peels back the layers, not leaving a simple understanding but instead, by the telling, examining the complications of what it means to tell.” —Fatimah Asghar, author of If They Come for Us: Poems
“When I say Vievee Francis is one of the finest living American writers, I say it without hyperbole. Each of her poems is a revelation. They embody Lorca’s idea that duende is about self-discovery, of excavation through image and the imaginary. Not for the self, but from the self. Few poets can write with her earned grace.” —Adrian Matejka, author of Somebody Else Sold the World