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ISBN: 978-1-955239-43-1
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Categories Chapbooks, Nomadic, Poetry

All of Us Are Cleaved

Publication Date: February 2023


In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. All of Us Are Cleaved was originally published by Nomadic.

Karen Llagas’s All of Us Are Cleaved explores how we are shaped by the connections we form and are thrusted upon us. From the intimate spaces of marriage and family to the wider experiences of migration, political engagement and a global pandemic, these poems assert that we are simultaneously taken apart and put back together: by our individual efforts, yes, but also by our collective grace.


Within All Of Us Are Cleaved a language of love & forgiveness emerges from the mother wound & the deepest wound of colonization. The lyric of the word blooms within this collection of poems—as your body merges with the work you begin to understand the purpose of love. Here an intimacy of poetics— each poem moving through life as life naturally does through the personal to the outer that resembles all of us. Here we rest our cheek on each other’s body, un abrazo fuerte enveloping each other—medicine that is a balm— like the Vicks rubbed on your chest cuando eramos niños—here a poetics of intimacy that equals the history of each others’ flesh.
Lourdes Figueroa, author of the chapbook Vuelta

Karen Llagas’ much-anticipated new collection is a fresh rendering of movement, memory, and lineation. Pay close attention to space and structure, to permeability and deliberate acts of grace. Just as there are many paths to excavating lost places and histories, the speaker in these poems takes us on an imagistic journey to rituals of grieving and cleaving (a ‘thirst for salt and mud’), to fields of sugarcane and the many kinds of poverty and privilege, always in proximity to the smallest of bodies—bees, spiders, yeast, rice grains, origins. (‘Do you know a rosebud/ that refuses/ to bloom is called a bullet?’) These are, at once, field notes and love poems, unsentimental and unimpeachable.
Aileen Cassinetto, Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow

As the contranym in the title suggests, Llagas’s poems grapple with the inherent contradictions that complicate and enrich human existence, and signal the oppositions that can divide us should our vigilance in interrogating their historically-and culturally-constructed assumptions wane. Rather than goad us to take sides or force a reconciliation among such oppositions, Llagas’s poems thrive at the intersections, revealing and enlarging the tensions among identities and allegiances, and in doing so create a new space —a more empathetic and giving space— for individual, interpersonal, and interrelational exchange. As the speaker tells the Covid pandemic in one poem: ‘You rupture us whole.’ The deeply lyrical and meditative poems in this collection break wide open the cracks that delineate facile categorizations, and from these fissures form new openings from where to more deeply and more compassionately view the world.
Abigail Licad, poet

In her bountiful new collection, All Of Us Are Cleaved, Karen Llagas writes of tending to a garden of personhoods, of having both singular and multiple selves, of being herself and of being a step-parent, an immigrant, a lover, a granddaughter. In a self-portrait, she writes, ‘the want to be the garden / and finding / the slab of brick,’ — but Llagas is not despondent. Alternately subversive and imaginative, Llagas creates an expansive self, and she isn’t afraid to define and re-define herself beyond the negative spaces she inhabits. And that is her bounty —her willingness to imagine beyond the ‘opposite of saint’ and beyond the ‘less field of ranunculus / and more nematodes’ which so uplifts us as readers and shows us how we too may imagine ourselves and our multitudes.
Karthik Sethuraman, author of the chapbook Prayer Under Eyelids

About the Author

© Bruno Soleri

Karen Llagas

Karen Llagas’s new chapbook, All of Us Are Cleaved, was published by Nomadic Press in 2023. Her first collection of poetry, Archipelago Dust, was published by Meritage Press in 2010. A recipient of a RHINO Founder's Prize, Filamore Tabios, Sr. Memorial Poetry Prize & a Hedgebrook residency, her poems have also appeared in various journals and anthologies. Born and raised in the Philippines, she is a lecturer in Filipino at UC Berkeley, and divides her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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