When I Waked, I Cried To Dream Again: Poems (Hardcover)

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A dynamic, moving hybrid work that celebrates Black youth, often too fleeting, and examines Black lives lost to police violence. 

In this astonishing volume of poems and lyric prose, Whiting Award–winner A. Van Jordan draws comparisons to Black characters in Shakespearean plays—Caliban and Sycorax from?The Tempest, Aaron the Moor from?Titus Andronicus, and the eponymous antihero of?Othello—to mourn the deaths of Black people, particularly Black children, at the hands of police officers. What do these characters, and the ways they are defined by the white figures who surround them, have in common with Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and other Black people killed in the twenty-first century?

Balancing anger and grief with celebration, Jordan employs an elastic variety of poetic forms, including ekphrastic sestinas inspired by the photography of Malick Sidibé, fictional dialogues, and his signature definition poems that break down the insidious power of words like “fair,” “suspect,” and “juvenile.” He invents a new form of window poems, based on a characterization exercise, to see Shakespeare’s Black characters in three dimensions, and finds contemporary parallels in the way these characters are othered, rendered at once undesirable and hypersexualized, a threat and a joke.


At once a stunning inquiry into the roots of racist violence and a moving recognition of the joy of Black youth before the world takes hold, When I Waked, I Cried to Dream Again expresses the preciousness and precarity of life.

About the Author

A. Van Jordan is the author of five collections of poetry, including?The Cineaste, a finalist for the NAACP Image Award, and M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and a Lannan Literary Award, among other honors. He is a professor of creative writing at Stanford University and lives in Oakland, California.

Praise For…

In this book, A. Van Jordan brings us what might be his most ambitious collection to date. Part- poetry, part-drama, part-interview, this is a book that defies easy categorization and yet uses that genrelessness to get to the heart of the American tradition of state violence against Black people. The book draws on a wide set of influences including Langston Hughes, Aimé Césaire, and William Shakespeare to build one of the most thoughtful poetic investigations of race and racism I have ever read. Jordan is one of the most masterful poets working today. This book is beautiful, affecting, and important.
— Nate Marshall, author of Finna

A. Van Jordan once again plumbs deep into canonical archives, the scouring searchlight of his poems illuminating cracks, creaks, and crooked seams in our literary and legal legacies. Herein is a hex composed of oft-hidden truths summoned up from playground soil and dictionary definitions, from Shakespearean soliloquies and Shango's tailor-cut suits. Herein seethes the poet's syncopation with Malick Sidibé and Cauleen Smith that ripples 'with full knowledge / of the gift skin gives to skirt.' This is a unique and vibrant risk of a book, one that speaks beyond borders of time and space to feverishly haunt us when we wake.
— Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olio

To do justice to Black people murdered by police—their human-sized losses, the tragic grandeur they assumed on global stages—Jordan reinhabits [Shakespeare's Black] characters... Like W. H. Auden’s The Sea and the Mirror and Aimé Césaire’s A Tempest, Jordan’s book does not imitate Shakespeare’s style so much as conduct formal and social experiments with his works. Three ingenious character studies take the form of tables... Amid all the tragedy, the book’s comic core, 'Such Sweet Thunder,' takes inspiration from the Malian photographer Malick Sidibé and a Sixties youth culture choreographed to James Brown and vibrantly dressed for the future.

— Christopher Spaide - Poetry Foundation

From a collaboration with filmmaker Cauleen Smith in response to Malick Sidibé’s photographs, to a fictional oral history project involving a 'code switching' Shakespeare scholar who shapes 'critical fabulation' from the 'master thief,' the interdisciplinary projects of A. Van Jordan’s moving fifth collection offer rigor and substance.
— Rebecca Morgan Frank - LitHub

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324050933
ISBN-10: 1324050934
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: June 6th, 2023
Pages: 144
Language: English