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When My Body Was A Clinched Fist

Publication Date: July 2020



In Enzo Silon Surin’s stellar debut, we find a child cornered on corners, elegy distilled from eulogy, unnerving music after a certain numbness, fury after pain. Everywhere there is the evidence of a body done wrong: poverty mounts on violence, shaping the hand into a fist ready to strike. Yet this book is also profoundly lyrical, sensitive, and altogether loving. Surin’s eloquence deserves recognition: these poems are exquisitely crafted. Moreover, When My Body Was A Clinched Fist is a deeply important contribution to our national conversation about gun violence.
—Cate Marvin, author of Oracle

In this full-length debut, Enzo Silon Surin traverses the turns of coming of age in the New York of the 1990s. In these sonically-packed stanzas, Surin draws scenes where hip hop and Haiti flow through the borough of Queens. He elegizes a friend named Frankie, and interrogates how masculinity is so often flexed like the knuckles of an ever-ready fist, even when vulnerability pulses underneath.
—Tara Betts, author of Break the Habit

Back in the day when KRS-One intoned—The Bridge is over!—he did not prefigure a poet from Queens of the fierce attitude and intellectual magnitude of Enzo Silon Surin. When My Body Was A Clinched Fist gives the Heisman to such a refrain with lyrical power-packing poetics that settles the score with a succinct—Not! No the Bridge is not over, for Surin’s Queens is alive and well and under the gaze of a master observer who eulogizes lives that though at times are battered have always mattered. Enzo Silon Surin’s poems get you caught up in the deeply personal experiences of growing and visceral all-encompassing knowing from an acute witness of every breath and follicle of Black life from palm trees, sand and sea to street corner projects, suburban houses and fistfuls of black water. Surin writes about the confused and disconnected, trigger happy wannabes trapped by outdated notions of masculinity, the cracked head crackheads all held in the clutch of society’s clinched fist through which the trauma that comes with being of color, addicted, broke, lost and tossed, is itself a clinched fist of black bodies caught in the Russian nesting doll America’s clinched fists make. When MyBody Was A Clinched Fist is an elegy for “the premature exits.” It is a blues for the black-on-black black and blue. Surin yields his pen like a microscopic scalpel whereby an autopsy of possibility is performed to un-clinch the remarkable bone gristle poetry in these unflinching heart-wrenching pages.
—Tony Medina, author of Death, with Occasional Smiling and I Am Alfonso Jones

When My Body Was A Clinched Fist emerges as a significant marker in the reimagining of African American culture. Enzo Silon Surin’s poetry brings an honest lyricism to the body of work by people of African descent that began in the eighteenth century in a country that struggles to realize its ideals. His delicate unveiling of hurt and courage are the American story in miniature. A young boy from Haiti leaves the dangers of home to confront the unknown dangers of a new home. Surin is the poet as warrior priest, his work the prophet’s homily redefining what it means to become and be an American.
—Afaa M. Weaver, author of Spirit Boxing

When My Body Was A Clinched Fist is born out of ultimate pain. Enzo Silon Surin weaves his words, like he weaves through trauma, with vulnerability, grace, and radical resilience. His writing is clearly an intrapsychic reckoning, with wounds and scars deeper than anyone ever wants to ever fathom, and too, a love song to finding home again within one’s mind, body, and brain. The reader is gifted with this journey, which is a redemptive one at its core. 
—Jennifer R. Wolkin, PhD, Licensed Psychologist & Clinical Neuropsychologist

About the Author

Enzo Silon Surin

Enzo Silon Surin is an award-winning Haitian-born poet, educator, publisher, and social advocate. He is the author of three previous collections of poetry, including When My Body Was A Clinched Fist (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), winner of the 21st Annual Massachusetts Book Award for Poetry. He is co-editor of Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience (Cherry Castle Publishing, 2022), and the recipient of a Brother Thomas Fellowship from the Boston Foundation, a PEN New England Discovery Award (Celebrated New Voice in Poetry) and a 2020 Denis Diderot Grant as an Artist-in-Residence at Chateau d’Orquevaux in France. Their fourth collection of poems, American Scapegoat, is forthcoming in the summer of 2023 from Black Lawrence Press. Surin’s work gives voice to experiences that take place in what he calls “broken spaces” and has been featured in numerous publications including by the Poetry Foundation, in Poem-a-Day by the Academy of American Poets. Their librettos have been commissioned by the Boston Opera Collaborative for a project titled “Love in the Time of…”, which is based on the Robert Schumann’s masterpiece song cycle Dichterliebe, and their 10-minute play “Last Train” was adapted as a 10-minute opera and is scheduled for production in 2023. Surin teaches creative writing and literature at Bunker Hill Community College and is also Founding Editor and Publisher at Central Square Press and Founder/Executive Director at the Faraday Publishing Company, Inc., a nonprofit literary services and social advocacy organization.

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