Poetry by Evie Shockley

"Untitled" by Janie Stamm / janiestamm.com

“the musician stands out”

“with this imaginary figure, derain was continuing his dialogue with the masters of the past . . . . the musician stands out against a plain ochre background animated only by the varying angles of the brushstrokes and a light shadow in the lower right hand section.”
musée de l’orangerie website



in the third-to-last room you visit it hung, he was hung, he was hung up, it’s a hang-up, you are hung up on this painting, le noir à la mandolin, always with, with it, he’s with it, the banjo, no, mandolin, the man is in the instrument, the black is in the player, the white is in the strings, it’s his hang-up, the song that catches no one by surprise, that catches in his throat, that catches up with him wherever he goes, his eyes round, as black as the hole in his instrument’s belly, his arm as brown as the instrument, the noir is brown, his lips withhold their hole, the player’s (w)hole or (k)not, the hole deepens the song, the instrument has a neck, the player has a tool, it’s his hang-up, he’s hung up on the tool of his trade, he’s hung, it’s the trade-off, you’re onto it: without it he’d probably be off the wall.




Evie Shockley is the author of three books of poetry: a half-red sea (Carolina Wren Press, 2005); the new black (Wesleyan Poetry Series, 2011), winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry; and semiautomatic (Wesleyan, 2017), which also won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her publications include a critical study, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2011). Among her honors are the Stephen Henderson Award, the Holmes National Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study,the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the American Council of Learned Societies. She is Professor of English at Rutgers University.