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ISBN: 978-1-62557-032-1
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Always a Relic Never a Reliquary

Publication Date: August 2022

About

WINNER OF THE 2020 ST. LAWRENCE BOOK AWARD

 

In her debut full-length poetry collection, Always a Relic Never a Reliquary, Brazilian American poet, editor and abolitionist Kim Sousa interrogates inheritance by reaching both backwards and forwards: backwards towards her father’s first border crossing and forwards past her own. Centered around a specific personal trauma, a later-term miscarriage, the poems also contain collective trauma: they ask what it means to live in the United States both as immigrant and citizen, addressing State terror and violence as if by megaphone at the protest line. In Sousa’s poems, the personal is political: they are anti-racist, ecocritical and proletariat. She sings diasporic resilience as both a horror and celebration. The poems are haunted but hopeful; here, there is always hope in rage and resistance.

Praise

I knew I would walk away bloody from Kim Sousa’s debut collection Always a Relic Never a Reliquary simply by knowing her individual poems from publications and readings—and I wasn’t wrong. There is the bloody hospital gown worn home after miscarriage, unfeeling nurse’s hands wiping and wiping. Borders: “bloody net[s].” What bullets do, what animal jaws do. This book exists in the intersection of where blood flows between countries, between cultures, between worlds—how one can be displaced yet embedded in each. Sousa writes, “I still dream in two tongues, but the dreams come less frequently.” There is loss in these pages, some loss so unimaginably profound (“—but then, I didn’t make a child, did I?”), but somehow “terrible hope” shines through as well. Rage tempered with that terrible hope, yes, but hope nonetheless. Reading Sousa’s work is a full-body experience: I’m implicated, I’m seen, I’m fearful and feared, I’m called backward and beckoned forward.

—Jennifer Jackson Berry

Always a Relic Never a Reliquary rebels against the illogics of oppression: “What terrible math made me?” Always a relic because the poems are aftermath, delicate, intimate, dear, ever-calling out to ancestors. Never a reliquary because the poems are impossibly contained, sprawling and stretching, leaning and leaking. Sousa implicitly invokes Aimé Césaire’s equation to explicate the devastating physics of imperialism: “colonization = thingification”. In vehemently rejecting the premises of border, patriarchy, and white supremacy, the poems embrace their “thingness” in the grandest sense: “unclaimed things,” “thick-coated things,” “nameless things,” “unknowable things,” “unnatural things,” “shapeless things.”

The poetics of Sousa’s “things” are as endearing as enduring as inciting. The things flood off the page– in their titles, in their forms, in their languages, in their politics. The things espouse a deep love of people, animals, living beings, and their bodies– in all of their wonder and potential, all of their blood and shit. The things lack fear in proclaiming Fuck the Police and threaten to shoot back. The things are quotidian manifestos offering a revolutionary hope in what poetry can manifest, even if it is “a terrible hope.”

–Aerik Francis

The poems in Kim Sousa’s Always a Relic Never a Reliquary draw from a wildly varied, continent-spanning, and consistently surprising lexicon. Political seriousness sits at the forefront of this work via (to name one of several threads) consistent anti-colonialist themes, yes, but there is also a clear synthesis of knowledge forms which fashions a singular, sensual poetic voice, with many poems grounded in inventive, visceral details of the tastes of foods, textures of skin and of touch, searing blood imageries, and much more. The results stick with you and demand re-reads. It is always a pleasure to spend time with poetry that is as embodied and risk-taking as this collection’s.

—Kyle Carerro Lopez

The concept of the personal myth is introduced early in Kim Sousa’s debut poetry collection. Recognition of this mythology and the ability to tap into its ritual, its prayer, and its power is necessary for someone who attempts to harmonize entire worlds in their writing. This is what Sousa does, and it is no easy feat. None of the worlds presented in these poems are the same. Few of them move toward or offer or demand the same things. Some exist only as spiritual masses, some are painfully tangible and sharply demarcated. There is the world of origin. The world lost. The world crumbling under violence and prejudice. The world containing only possibility. Sousa bravely traverses all of these and serves as their medium, their appraiser, their interrogator, their storyteller.

—Gustavo Hernandez

Kim Sousa’s debut collection speaks on grief, prison abolition, and human migration. It is confessional poetry with teeth—teeth sharp enough to cut through the fabric of the American Dream and reveal some of the systematic horrors at its core. Like the poet, these poems “lean into rage” to help the reader confront the daily struggles that Black/Brown/immigrant people face in this country. Sousa’s poems serve not only as witness, but as statement that we will persevere.

—Nikolai Garcia

About the Author

© Emily Sousa

Kim Sousa

Kim Sousa is a Brazilian American poet and open border radical. She was born in Goiânia, Goiás and immigrated to Austin, Texas with her family at age five. Her poems can be found in Poet Lore, EcoTheo Review, The Boiler and elsewhere. Her first book of poems, ALWAYS A RELIC NEVER A RELIQUARY, is the winner of Black Lawrence Press 2020 St. Lawrence Book Award. Kim is currently editing an anthology of LatinxFuturisms, Até Mais, with Alan Chazaro and Malcolm Friend. You can find Kim at kimsousawrites.com and on Twitter @kimsoandso and @LatinxFuturisms.

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