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Bluest Nude: Poems (Milkweed Editions)
Ama Codjoe's highly anticipated debut collection brings generous light to the inner dialogues of women as they bathe, create art, make and lose love. Each poem rises with the urgency of a fully awakened sensual life. Codjoe's poems explore how the archetype of the artist complicates the typical expectations of women: be gazed upon, be silent, be selfless, reproduce. Dialoguing with and through art, Bluest Nude considers alternative ways of holding and constructing the self. From Lorna Simpson to Gwendolyn Brooks to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, contemporary and ancestral artists populate Bluest Nude in a choreography of Codjoe's making. Precise and halting, this finely wrought, riveting collection is marked by an acute rendering of highly charged emotional spaces. Purposefully shifting between the role of artist and subject, seer and seen, Codjoe's poems ask what the act of looking does to a person--public looking, private looking, and that most intimate, singular spectacle of looking at one's self. What does it mean to see while being seen? In poems that illuminate the tension between the possibilities of openness and and its impediments, Bluest Nude offers vulnerability as a medium to be immersed in and, ultimately, shared as a kind of power: "There are as many walls inside me / as there are bones at the bottom of the sea," Codjoe writes in the masterful titular poem. "I want to be seen clearly or not at all." "The end of the world has ended," Codjoe's speaker announces, "and desire is still / all I crave."Startling and seductive in equal measure, this formally ambitious collection represents a powerful, luminous beginning.
Ama Codjoe is the author of Bluest Nude and Blood of the Air, winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. She has been awarded support from Cave Canem, Robert Rauschenberg, and Saltonstall foundations as well as from Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Hawthornden, Hedgebrook, Yaddo, and MacDowell. Her recent poems have appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, The Best American Poetry series and elsewhere. Among other honors, Codjoe has received fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council/New York Foundation of the Arts, and the Jerome Foundation.
Aleshea Harris’s Is God Is (directed by Taibi Magar at Soho Rep/Ola Ince at the Royal Court) won the Relentless Award, an OBIE for playwriting and the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award. What to Send Up When It Goes Down (directed by Whitney White at The Movement Theatre Company), was featured in American Theatre Magazine and received a special commendation from the Blackburn Prize. The play was subsequently re-mounted at Woolly Mammoth, A.R.T., BAM and Playwrights Horizons. Her newest play, On Sugarland (directed by Whitney White) premiered at New York Theatre Workshop in 2022. Awards: Windham-Campbell Literary Prize, Mimi Steinberg Playwriting Award, Hermitage Greenfield Prize, Horton Foote Playwriting Award, Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Harris is a two-time MacDowell Fellow and has enjoyed residencies at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Hedgebrook and Djerassi.
Ashaki M. Jackson, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, program evaluator and poet. Her work has appeared in CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art and Action, Pluck! Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture, Midnight Breakfast, McSweeney's, and Prairie Schooner among other journals and anthologies. The author of two chapter-length books -- Surveillance (Writ Large Press) and Language Lesson (Miel) -- Jackson is also Publisher at The Offing magazine of art and literature. She earned her MFA (poetry) from Antioch University Los Angeles and her doctorate (social psychology) from Claremont Graduate University. She lives in Los Angeles.
Praise for Bluest Nude -
"How beautifully seen, tended, and rendered are our many Black lives under this poet's exquisite gaze. In appetite and loss, rage and praise, what animates these poems is a profound cherishing, an abiding (and yet at every turn surprising) love rushing out from the lush wilderness of Ama Codjoe's rapturous imagination. Bluest Nude is an ecstatic encounter." —Tracy K. Smith
"Sensual, sound-driven, and brimming with a necessary truth, the poems in Bluest Nude are pulsating with both grief and beauty. Wrought out of resurrection and reclaiming, these brilliant poems honor the mystery and legacy of the body. Codjoe has written a true triumph of a debut that feels urgent and deeply human." —Ada Limon
"It is hard to find words for the fineness of Ama Codjoe's poetry, its unabashed and luminous vibrancy. She unframes old myths about beauty and femininity and care to bring them intimately into the experience of the body where she forges far more supple visions. Her language is so rich and resourceful that, as it enlarges lyric possibilities, it also enlarges human ones. Never have I been so convinced that the desire to know oneself and the desire to be the agent of one's own radical self-making can be audacious and brilliant collaborators." —Mary Szybist
“Codjoe’s poems made me ache in the best way. These poems call forward our many mothers—in pictures and pages—they create a vibrant salon pulsing with the confidence of a poet’s urgent, material response. Exquisitely balanced between premonition and memory, Bluest Nude is a gathering and conjuring of improvisation and reflection, sensuality and joy, call and response.” —Ellen Gallagher