Book Birthdays celebrate one year of a book’s life in tweets, reviews, and more. This month we’re saying Happy First Book Birthday to Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair! Sinclair is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship. This collection won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.
About the Book:
Colliding with and confronting The Tempest and postcolonial identity, the poems in Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal explore Jamaican childhood and history, race relations in America, womanhood, otherness, and exile. She evokes a home no longer accessible and a body at times uninhabitable, often mirrored by a hybrid Eve/Caliban figure. Blooming with intense lyricism and fertile imagery, these full-blooded poems are elegant, mythic, and intricately woven. Here the female body is a dark landscape; the female body is cannibal. Sinclair shocks and delights her readers with her willingness to disorient and provoke, creating a multitextured collage of beautiful and explosive poems.
“Stunning debut collection.”—Publishers Weekly starred review
“Reading (and rereading) Sinclair is an urgently necessary, absolutely unparalleled experience.”—Diego Báez, Booklist starred review
“This award-winning collection comes to eat you.”—Waxwing Literary Journal
“Lyrical and provocative, Sinclair’s poems teach the reader in rich language what it means to be ‘other’ and to have a female body.” —Buzzfeed
“Cannibal pulsates with the lushness of Jamaica, its flora, fauna, rhythms, sea.” —World Literature Today
- ALA 2017 Notable Book
- Winner of the 2017 Bocas Lit Prize in Poetry
- 2017 Addison M. Metcalf Award
- 2017 Wheatley Book Award in Poetry
- Finalist for the 2017 PEN Center USA Award in Poetry
- Longlisted for the 2017 Dylan Thompson Prize2017 Dylan Thompson Prize
- Profile in Poets & Writers
- Profile on KQED
- Discussion in The Rumpus
- Discussion in The Kenyon Review
On the blog:
A word from the author:
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Cannibal was released. Every time I see the book’s cover somewhere in the world, I still get a thrill. Here is Wangechi Mutu’s incomparable cover art, those lonely and pleading eyes, their grotesque-beautiful gaze stalking the observer around the room. How it holds all of me in its mind’s eye. I remember the first time I held the book in my hands, I was caught in a surreal moment; turning and stroking (and smelling) the pages, heavy with poems—poems often written in dark rooms, in solace, when I tried to make sense of the narrow world closing in around me, aching to make some sense of myself. Each word in this collection was a small fire, guiding me. I think of these poems, now bound in a book, out in the universe, living full-bloodedly, lighting their own way. It’s electrifying and terrifying at the same time to know how these words became poems and built this object, which will now outlive me. A steady lesson in im/permanence. Look, how quickly a year goes: I am thinking again on my book launch at Housing Works Bookstore, buoyed by Aracelis Girmay and Greg Pardlo’s support, seeing the bright faces of the listeners in the crowd, feeling their warmth, seeing my mother beaming, reciting my words. Perhaps she knew the words before I knew them. This is what I tell myself, as I meet every kind reader who has found something in the book to hold onto, who tells me I write of their unseen body, that I echo their own songs, their own impolite landscapes. This the best reward. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world reading poetry about my small island to keen and generous audiences. I’ve achieved dizzying, unexpected milestones, been lucky enough to see the book well-reviewed and awarded. But what I cherish most is this new community; being encouraged by so many poets and writers who speak my language, waking match-struck by every message from peers and mentors affirming that they, too, found something savage, something beautiful here.