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Book Title

Against Heaven

Author 1
Kemi Alabi
Poem Excerpt
Remember Genesis.

The worlds and little deaths you build
with just your breath and hands.

Silhouettes that singe the walls
with new maps to salvation

till even the floorboards buck and cry jesus.
Even the windows blush and say amen.

—from “How to Fornicate”
Kemi Alabi’s transcendent debut reimagines the poetic and cultural traditions from which it is born, troubling the waters of some of our country’s central and ordained fictions—those mythic politics of respectability, resilience, and redemption. Instead of turning to a salvation that has been forced upon them, Alabi turns to the body and the earth as sites of paradise defined by the pleasure and possibility of Black, queer fugitivity. Through tender love poems, righteous prayers, and vital provocations, we see the colonizers we carry within ourselves being laid to rest.

Against Heaven is a praise song made for the flames of a burning empire—a freedom dream that shapeshifts into boundless multiplicities for the wounds made in the name of White supremacy and its gods. Alabi has written an astonishing collection of magnificent range, commanding the full spectrum of the Black, queer spirit’s capacity for magic, love, and ferocity in service of healing—the highest power there is.

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Winner of the Academy of American Poets First Book Award, selected by Claudia Rankine.

About the Author

Kemi  Alabi
Credit: Ally Almore
Kemi Alabi’s work has been published in PoetryThe BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2Best New Poets 2019, and elsewhere, and they are the recipient of the 2020 Beacon Street Prize. Alabi is a coeditor of The Echoing Ida Collection and lives in Chicago.
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  • "Alabi’s ecstatic debut pulses with the language of Black queer joy. Simultaneously a celebration of the body and a story of resisting the oppression that polices it, these poems offer a condemnation of the racist, classist, and sexist foundations of what Alabi calls 'empire,' epitomized in religious belief. . . . Powerfully polemical, this impressive collection exclaims a message of liberation from body to the body politic."Publishers Weekly
  • “Poetry lovers who embrace intricacy and a bold approach to what language can do will appreciate this debut, which, as its title suggests, pushes against traditional ideas of paradise, linguistically and otherwise.”—Mandana Chaffa, Chicago Review of Books
  • “With abundant sonics, formal virtuosity, and a rigorous queer erotic, Alabi proves that every inheritance can be both wound and portal. Against Heaven is a stunning debut from one of our most talented emerging voices; the wildest part of you has been waiting for it.”—Franny Choi
  • “A sacrament to the underworld, Against Heaven ushers us into a vast network of ritual and erotic apertures. . . . This thrilling portal of disobedience and rapture builds altars of sound for the dead and dispossessed. Against Heaven is an ecstatic, immersive debut, a place to reside, and an extraordinary feat in language and experimentation.”—Xan Phillips 
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