The 2020 National Book Awards Longlist: Poetry (via The New Yorker)

“The Age of Phillis,” a poetry collection by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, reimagines the life of Phillis Wheatley, a Black poet who achieved literary stardom as an enslaved young woman in colonial Boston. Though Wheatley, who died in 1784, left behind a sizable body of work, much of her biography has been recovered from the memoir of Margaretta Matilda Odell—a white woman who claimed to be a descendant of Susanna Wheatley, the woman who enslaved the poet. “The Age of Phillis,” the product of several years of research in Massachusetts archives, “undoes the whitewashing of Phillis’s story,” Elizabeth Winkler writes. “In some of the poems, language is bracketed and crossed out—a way of representing, through style, Phillis’s elisions, everything she could not say.”

“The Age of Phillis” is on the longlist for this year’s National Book Award in Poetry. It is one of several contenders that observes the violence of empire and excavates histories that have been forgotten or erased. Anthony Cody investigates omissions in the historical record in his collection “Borderland Apocrypha,” Natalie Diaz subverts a traditional form in “Postcolonial Love Poem,” and Don Mee Choi uses translation as a tool for disobedience in “DMZ Colony,” a collection that explores the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The full list is below…

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The New Yorker | National Book Foundation | National Book Awards Longlist – Poetry

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