The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner


In stock


Publication Date: April 2014


Winner of the Spring 2012 Black River Chapbook Competition

Positioned at a nexus of poetry (regarding which our ideas about form condition our expectations for content) and nonfiction (regarding which our ideas about content condition our expectations for form), the poems in Nonfiction are singing essays on race in America and the racialized American self, on child abuse and parenting, on love, and envy, and imprisonment.


Seeing for someone

In the house       for company because

he what he does to my / Body he doesn’t

want in the house

he hides the women in / He

hides the magazines in somewhere in     / Where guests would never go

for company he what he does to me

He wants to keep       private a me a secret       even then     / And even as a boy I knew

My body my / Black body wasn’t

private wasn’t       couldn’t be

Secret and even then / I knew

He what he did to me       made me invisible     / I didn’t have

the blond face of a kidnapped child I had

the face of someone

Who brought it on himself


Nonfiction is a welcome offering from one of the most stunningly original poets to emerge in the last few years. Using a hauntingly lyrical syntax that embraces stammerings and fragmentations, Shane McCrae gives us poems based on documentary accounts of slavery and imprisonment, as well as more intimate treatments of troubling subjects. Whatever their sources, the poems are “nonfiction” in the most urgent sense, bringing to light some of our culture’s most deeply disturbing truths.

-Martha Collins

Shane McCrae’s latest poems arrive in a cloud of dark music. Here is a new “nonfiction” one that sings the many truths of the body-race-marked, abused, and plundered. We awaken, with McCrae’s speaker, “chained to a ring in the floor” of an unknown room (read: stanza) wondering how a body can endure so much pain and still be “hidden in the air” a mysterious vessel containing both injury and hope. McCrae’s lyrics-finely-wrought, yet relentless in their strength-frame the ambivalent yields of our American moment. Is the darkness surrounding us a dangerous blindness, or “a warmer way to sleep?” In McCrae’s poetry, the answer to such questions always must be yes.

-Kiki Petrosino

About the Author

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is the author of Mule (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011), a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Center USA Literary Award, and Blood (Noemi Press, 2013), as well as two chapbooks,One Neither One (Octopus Books, 2009) and In Canaan (Rescue Press, 2010). His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Best American Poetry 2010, Fence, Gulf Coast, jubilat and others. In 2011, he received a Whiting Writer's Award.

Visit Author Page