Dawson’s third book is a book-length poem, exploring what it is to be black, to be a woman, and to be living in today’s world. She deftly incorporates poetic forms and free verse into a work that sings, shouts, and mesmerizes. Recommended By Mary Jo S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A book-length poem navigating belief, black lives, the tragedies of Trump, and the boundaries of being a woman.
When Rap Spoke Straight to God isn’t sacred or profane, but a chorus joined in a single soliloquy, demanding to be heard. There’s Wu-Tang and Mary Magdelene with a foot fetish, Lil’ Kim and a self-loving Lilith. Slurs, catcalls, verses, erasures ― Dawson asks readers, “Just how far is it to nigger?” Both grounded and transcendent, the book is reality and possibility. Dawson’s work has always been raw, but When Rap Spoke Straight to God is as blunt as the answer to that earlier question: “Here.” Sometimes abrasive and often abraded, Dawson doesn’t flinch.
A mix of traditional forms where sonnets mash up with sestinas morphing to heroic couplets, When Rap Spoke Straight to God insists that while you may recognize parts of the poem’s world, you can’t anticipate how it will evolve.
With a literal exodus of light in the book’s final moments, When Rap Spoke Straight to God is a lament for and a celebration of blackness. It’s never depression; it’s defiance ― a persistent resistance. In this book, like Wu-Tang says, the marginalized “ain’t nothing to fuck with.”
“When Rap Spoke Straight to God is utterly transporting. In language both elevated and slangy, saucy and tender, Dawson lovingly weaves the reader around her finger.” Jennifer Egan
“The lusciously long poems in When Rap Spoke Straight to God are sensual and openly political and so well-crafted in epic blank verse that we begin to see how the contemporary moment has yet to fully correct far too many historical moments. And it does this with a lyric intensity that I dare say can only be achieved by a poet fully aware of her place in time and its potential.” Jericho Brown
“Erica Dawson delivers a short collection of long poems that take our current time and dissect it into beautiful and evocative pieces. Harsh but never hard, unflinching but never violent, she speaks to the experiences of black women, celebrating the best of black culture and lamenting its struggles. Wrapped in and elevated by exquisite religious allusions, Dawson’s poetry shines.” World Literature Today
“Witty, wise, hilarious, enchanting....Read this book and you’ll want Dawson to sing of everything.” The Millions
About the Author
Erica Dawson is the author of two previous collections of poetry: The Small Blades Hurt (Measure Press, 2014), winner of the 2016 Poets’ Prize, and Big-Eyed Afraid (Waywiser Press, 2007), winner of the 2006 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Barrow Street; Bennington Review; three editions of Best American Poetry; Crazyhorse; Harvard Review; Life: 50 Poems Now; the Pushcart Prize XLII: Best of the Small Presses; Rebellion; Resistance; Virginia Quarterly Review; and numerous other journals and anthologies. She lives in Tampa, Florida, and is an associate professor at University of Tampa, where she also directs the low-residency MFA program.