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Red Summer

Tupelo Press

A brilliant African-American poet writes of lynching, domestic abuse and love as he examines the race riots that swept the United States in 1919 in haunting, passionate poems, marked by a tender lyrical quality inspired by the blues.


“Equally confident within the lyric and narrative modes, Johnson’s Red Summer startles and impresses with its sheer range of vision, at one moment giving us a hushed, confessional poem, at another a poem of public, political consciousness… Johnson speaks from a space he describes at one point as “between gravity and god”—that is, past the provable, material world, but just shy of any clear confirmation of prayer or faith—and it’s a particular kind of faith that these poems at once enact and point to, what Robert Hayden called “The deep immortal human wish,/the timeless will,” the will to believe. Johnson’s poems remind us that the human record is at last a mixed one: violence, shame, betrayal, and fear, but also joy, courage, love and, yes, hope. Red Summer gives us the stirring debut of a restorative new American voice.” —Carl Phillips