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Bury My Clothes
A stirring meditation on violence, race, and the place in art at which they intersect, by poet Roger Bonair-Agard.
Bury My Clothes, a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for poetry, is a meditation on violence, race, and the place in art at which they intersect. Art—specifically in oppressed communities—is about survival, Roger Bonair-Agard asserts, and establishing personhood in a world that says you have none. Through poetry, we transform both the world of art and the world itself.

Roger Bonair-Agard is a Cave Canem fellow, two-time National Poetry Slam Champion, and author of Tarnish and Masquerade and Gully. He has appeared three times on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and is Co-founder and Artistic Director of the LouderARTS Project in New York.
Reviews
  • A finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry

    "Bury My Clothes" is a gut-level read, one that you must prepare for with not only your head, but also your body. These unapologetically relentless stanzas, practically quivering with funk and resolve, will slam their fists into places you have not yet discovered. Serving up a gospel that teeters on the blade edge between calm and chaos, one of poetry's premier storytellers has taught the city to speak with his voice."—Patricia Smith, author,Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah

    “These poems offer up a speech textured with both the violence of racial construction and the complicated gorgeousness born out of survival and adaptation. These poems insist on the beauty of the darknesses we are bound by, and mean to help us live by reminding us: there is no crevice of grief or grace where something does not bloom.”
    —Aracelis Girmay, author of Teeth and Kingdom Animalia

    “Bury My Clothes is the sound of language breaking open. Bonair-Agard is reaching farther both in time and in syntax to say more than he has ever said before. It is a masterwork in which the poet has found ‘the canopy of night black enough for everything he’s ever wanted to say.’”
    —Karen Finneyfrock, author of Ceremony for the Choking Ghost

    “Bury My Clothes is a breadth of language that straddles Arouca and Chicago, hip-hop and calypso with the brawling, affirming righteousness of the Black televangelist leading us through violence and love to the wealth of unexpected tenderness.” —Earl Lovelace, author, Is Just a Movie

    "In his profound meditation “State of Emergency” Roger Bonair-Agard writes “I don’t know What to think people expect anymore;/when the word black, blooms all inside/their bodies like smoke and blood; who/ do they expect to walk out of this fog." If there is a poet for this Zeitgeist, of Arab Spring, of governments toppling, a poet to listen to the people, a poet not just for this country but all countries, a poet I have been looking for my whole life, it is Roger Bonair-Agard. Part Aimé Césaire, part Hikmet, part Black Arts Movement, part hip hop-non-stop-body-rock Brooklyn, he sees beyond borders to erase them with words. A poet of family, and funk ”ordained in the boogie,” of celebration and hallelujahs, and loss. Of knowing loss. And going on, as we all must go, Roger helps us go on, even though “All airports now make you weep. You come/from weeping—Wednesday’s child. 23. You
    come/from woe. Your mother and your passport tell you so.”—Sean Thomas Dougherty, author, All I Ask for Is Longing
  • A finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry

    "Bury My Clothes" is a gut-level read, one that you must prepare for with not only your head, but also your body. These unapologetically relentless stanzas, practically quivering with funk and resolve, will slam their fists into places you have not yet discovered. Serving up a gospel that teeters on the blade edge between calm and chaos, one of poetry's premier storytellers has taught the city to speak with his voice."—Patricia Smith, author,Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah

    “These poems offer up a speech textured with both the violence of racial construction and the complicated gorgeousness born out of survival and adaptation. These poems insist on the beauty of the darknesses we are bound by, and mean to help us live by reminding us: there is no crevice of grief or grace where something does not bloom.”
    —Aracelis Girmay, author of Teeth and Kingdom Animalia

    “Bury My Clothes is the sound of language breaking open. Bonair-Agard is reaching farther both in time and in syntax to say more than he has ever said before. It is a masterwork in which the poet has found ‘the canopy of night black enough for everything he’s ever wanted to say.’”
    —Karen Finneyfrock, author of Ceremony for the Choking Ghost

    “Bury My Clothes is a breadth of language that straddles Arouca and Chicago, hip-hop and calypso with the brawling, affirming righteousness of the Black televangelist leading us through violence and love to the wealth of unexpected tenderness.” —Earl Lovelace, author, Is Just a Movie

    "In his profound meditation “State of Emergency” Roger Bonair-Agard writes “I don’t know What to think people expect anymore;/when the word black, blooms all inside/their bodies like smoke and blood; who/ do they expect to walk out of this fog." If there is a poet for this Zeitgeist, of Arab Spring, of governments toppling, a poet to listen to the people, a poet not just for this country but all countries, a poet I have been looking for my whole life, it is Roger Bonair-Agard. Part Aimé Césaire, part Hikmet, part Black Arts Movement, part hip hop-non-stop-body-rock Brooklyn, he sees beyond borders to erase them with words. A poet of family, and funk ”ordained in the boogie,” of celebration and hallelujahs, and loss. Of knowing loss. And going on, as we all must go, Roger helps us go on, even though “All airports now make you weep. You come/from weeping—Wednesday’s child. 23. You
    come/from woe. Your mother and your passport tell you so.”—Sean Thomas Dougherty, author, All I Ask for Is Longing