Poems imagine the life and times of Phillis Wheatley Peters
NAACP Image Award Winner for Outstanding Literary Work for Poetry 2020 National Book Award for Poetry, Longlist 2020 LA Times Book Award Finalist
In 1773, a young, African American woman named Phillis Wheatley Peters published a book of poetry that challenged Western prejudices about African and female intellectual capabilities. Based on fifteen years of archival research, The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honor e Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley's age--the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade. For the first time in verse, Wheatley's relationship to black people and their individual mercies is foregrounded, and here we see her as not simply a racial or literary symbol, but a human being who lived and loved while making her indelible mark on history.
mothering #1 Yaay, Someplace in the Gambia, c. 1753
after the after-birth is delivered the mother stops holding her breath the mid-wife gives what came before her just-washed pain her insanity pain an undeserved pain a God-given pain oh oh oh pain drum-talking pain witnessing pain Allah a mother offers You this gift prays You find it acceptable her living pain her creature pain her pretty-little-baby pain.