The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner

This Is Not a Frank Ocean Cover Album

Publication Date: September 2019


Winner of the Spring 2018 Black River Chapbook Competition

In his debut short collection, poet Alan Chazaro takes us from the moonlit Bay Bridge to dark Oakland bars to tire shops to backyards to the fireworks and dirt paths of Mexico City. Chazaro’s speakers battle to find internal truths in a world defined by external opposition. Here, we glide from Frank Ocean to 80s synthpop, from Half Moon Bay to Athens, from Oscar De La Hoya to Wolverine. This is a collection about navigating multiple worlds, about traversing from boyhood into manhood. In poems that crackle with “scorpions in the dark” and “Lauryn Hill’s voodoo” and “fat / Adidas laces and barbershop fades$$ Chazaro explores what it means to curate a sense of self as a millennial first-generation California Chicanx writer. His speakers are driven by a desire to control their identity in a world where they haven’t been able to control much else-as the children of immigrants, as the occupants of ever-shifting spaces, as bodies that belong and don’t belong.

Structured like a rap mixtape, each poem on the “track list” is an ode to some vibration of memory, sound, or Chazaro’s native Bay Area landscape. This Is Not a Frank Ocean Cover Album, just as we are not ever actually ourselves-but a collection of fragments from our component influences and cultures, a reflection of the choices we make in search of a more genuine self.


I say fuck
because it feels right
about now,
and I say love because
what wrong
could it bring?
I haven’t shot a pistol
since my stepdad
flung his Desert Eagle
from the bedroom and took us
to burst freedom as kids.
The smell of sulfur
and devil, the pinch
of steel between my 10-
year-old fingers. I didn’t
seek this, was never good
at hitting body-
sized targets,
kept my eyes
shut while I curled
the trigger. It’s heavier
than you think,
to hold and re-
lease thunder.
Not like the movies but
somehow like the movies.
Ears still ringing,
in my bones.

Listen to Alan Chazaro read for the Black Lawrence Press Virtual Reading Series // Watch the captioned video on the BLP YouTube Channel


Listen: This book is so good it makes me want to curse. Better still: it makes me want to go write. Alan Chazaro’s THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM is full of neon imagery—a blunt passed around like “just-born stars,” an apartment full of men watching boxing as an armpit. Chazaro’s lyric is expansive; his music is tight. Nod your head & find yourself going back to each poem to trace its wisdom like a kid hitting rewind on a Walkman to hear their favorite punch line over and over. Chazaro’s poems explore masculinity & machismo with tenderness, they define & redefine ideas of home, and they shout out the Bay Area with love & precision.

—José Olivarez, author of 2019 PEN/Jean Stein Award Nominee CITIZEN ILLEGAL

Welcome to the blood hymn of the fast-moving body. In THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM, debut poet, Alan Chazaro, breaks open—beautifully—the contemporary poetry landscape, crossing bridges, contemplating borders, and reckoning with the legacies of a rumbling boyhood. The voices here are tender, intellectual; hungry for desert wonder and midnight hoops, they wind their way through the ruins of Athens, the streets of Mexico City, and back to the yards and bars of Oakland. “We are byproducts of earthquakes,” confesses the speaker; “Do not look away.” A burning and beautiful achievement by a poet on the rise.


Alan Chazaro’s THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM challenges us to listen. To reckon with the troubling vibrations of diaspora and masculinity in the landscapes of a gentrifying America and postcolonial world. In these pages you’ll find a poet who has done that listening, who has listened to himself, his loved ones, his community. Who knows “there are streets that have retained the noises of ghosts,” and has found a way to remix those vibrations as a way of navigating the joys and perils of his world.

—Malcolm Friend, author of OUR BRUISES KEPT SINGING PURPLE

THIS IS NOT A FRANK OCEAN COVER ALBUM is a full-throated song, a reclamation of language, history, and memory that resonates across time and space and generations. Here, the Bay Area is sentient and brimming with sound, possessing a body and blood of its own. Chazaro’s language is pure electricity, revealing the sonic landscapes and silences that surround lineages, memories, and displacements. By alchemizing loss into light, these poems are both cosmic and deeply embodied. Chazaro rewrites masculinity and reckons with colonialism, all while guiding us toward the mythic possibilities of creation: “how constellations are formed / from the darkness of our mouths.” Each poem contains a home within itself, a home that defies nation and gentrification, a home that can hold all of us. This collection is kaleidoscopic, alive with joy and mourning and defiance. With each singing line, it brings the future to us: “One day, / let us all return to ourselves.”

—Kristin Chang, author of PAST LIVES, FUTURE BODIES and the forthcoming debut novel BESTIARY

About the Author

Alan Chazaro

Alan Chazaro is the author of This Is Not a Frank Ocean Cover Album (Black Lawrence Press, 2019) and Piñata Theory (Black Lawrence Press, 2020). He is a graduate of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley, a former Lawrence Ferlinghetti Fellow at the University of San Francisco, and co-founding editor of HeadFake, an online NBA zine. He chirps about Mexican memes, the Golden State Warriors, and Bay Area rap on Twitter @alan_chazaro

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