About this poet

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee in 1965, Evie Shockley received her BA from Northwestern University. After studying Law at the University of Michigan, she earned her PhD in English from Duke University.

Shockley's first book, The Gorgon Goddess, was published by Carolina Wren Press in 2001. Since then she has published three books: a half-red sea (Carolina Wren Press, 2006), 31 words * prose poems (Belladonna* Books, 2007), and the new black (Wesleyan University Press, 2011), which received the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry.

Embracing both free verse and formal structures, Shockley straddles the divide between traditional and experimental poetics. A review of her work in Library Journal noted that, "Shockley’s work incorporates elements of myth without being patently 'mythical' and is personal without being self-indulgent, sentimental without being saccharine." Her reported influences include Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, and Harryette Mullen.

A Cave Canem graduate fellow, Shockley received the 2012 Holmes National Poetry Prize. She was awarded a residency at the Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers in 2003. Two of her poems were displayed in the Biko 30/30 exhibit, a commemoration of the life and work of anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko, which toured South Africa in 2007.

Shockley was coeditor of the poetry journal jubilat from 2004-2007, and teaches African American Literature and Creative Writing at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey.

playing with fire

Evie Shockley
something is always burning, passion,
                        pride, envy, desire, the internal organs 
        going chokingly up in smoke, as some-
                thing outside the body exerts a pull
that drags us like a match across sand-
                        paper. something is always burning, 
        london, paris, detroit, l.a., the neighbor-

                hoods no one outside seems to see until 
they're backlit by flames, when the out-
                        siders, peering through dense, acrid,
        black-&-orange-rimmed fumes, mis-
                take their dark reflections for savages 
altogether alien. how hot are the london
                        riots for west end pearls? how hot in tot-

        tenham? if one bead of cream rolls down 
        one precious neck, heads will roll in brix-
ton: the science of sociology. the mark
                        duggan principle of cause and effect: 
        under conditions of sufficient pressure—
                measured roughly in years + lead ÷ £s—
black blood is highly combustible.

Copyright © 2011 by Evie Shockley. Used with permission of the author.

Evie Shockley

Evie Shockley

Embracing both free verse and formal structures, Evie Shockley straddles the divide between traditional and experimental poetics

by this poet

poem

i hear it jingling in the pockets of the innocent heirs of fundamentally well-meaning transatlantic traders and new world farmers. i see a wad of it stuffed in the jeans of the celebrities whose tracks, films, and reality shows are beloved by fans all across the nation and wherever american culture is exported. i

poem
self-portrait with cats, with purple, with stacks
      of half-read books adorning my desk, with coffee,

                  with mug, with yesterday's mug. self-portrait
            with guilt, with fear, with thick-banded silver ring,

      painted toes, and no make-up on my face. self-
            portrait
poem

 

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