Punks: New & Selected Poems
Author: John Keene
Publisher: The Song Cave (2021)
A landmark collection of poetry by acclaimed fiction writer, translator, and MacArthur Fellow John Keene, Punks: New & Selected Poems is a generous treasury in seven sections that spans decades and includes previously unpublished and brand new work. With depth and breadth, Punks weaves together historic narratives of loss, lust, and love. The many voices that emerge in these poems—from historic Black personalities, both familial and famous, to the poet's friends and lovers in gay bars and bedrooms—form a cast of characters capable of addressing desire, oppression, AIDS, and grief through sorrowful songs that "we sing as hard as we live." At home in countless poetic forms, Punks reconfirms John Keene as one of the most important voices in contemporary poetry.
"Wow. Get Punks. Loads of ritual and performative lyric here, essential stuff. Histories, his brain ranges through the past impossibly, like an elegant thrift. I bow my head to Boston as it passes along the edges here of its demi-monde, then wrenching prose poems that are pretty much explorations of radiant metonymies of someone being black and queer like only John Keene is. This is one rich and thorough (I say pithy) fucking book."
"John Keene's Punks is utterly brilliant. The range, vision, depth and humanity he brings to the page are as galactic as Banneker’s astral wanderings, as crisp as the chordal cutting of a searching horn, as courageous and small as a nose wide open. Keene’s masterfully inventive inquiry of self and history is queered, Blackened, and joyously thick with multitudes of voice and valence. Amen to this exploration!"
"Punks by John Keene is the gayest, most reverent homosexual book of poems I have read in decades. It drips with ecstatic faggoty desire, sings a uniquely black love, and invokes Marlon Riggs’ contention that 'every time we kiss, we confirm the new world coming.' With a deftness I can only describe as masterful, these poems attend to “that vibrating inner field” of eros and the rapture of effervescence. You will be transported. It’s a brutal world out there. You need this attention to Keene’s poetic oeuvre where you’ll find a tenderness in both craft and content that will make your reading mind wet AF. Punks is a must read by any standards. It will make you want to fall in love with everything, including yourself."
–Dawn Lundy Martin