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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 Surin writes about the confused and disconnected, trigger happy wannabes trapped by outdated notions of masculinity, the cracked head crackheads all held in the clutch of society’s clinched fist through which the trauma that comes with being of color,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 a Haitian-born award-winning poet, author, educator, publisher and social advocate. He has taught, performed, and lectured on topics such as social justice, the immigrant experience, racial disparities, and gives voice to experiences that take place in what he calls “broken spaces”. He is the author of American Scapegoat (Black Lawrence Press, 2023) and When My Body Was A Clinched Fist (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), winner of the 21st Annual Massachusetts Book Awards. He is also the author of two chapbooks and co-editor of Where We Stand: Poems of Black Resilience (Cherry Castle Publishing, 2022). In American Scapegoat, his second full-length collection of poetry, he interrogates the socio-political framework of a democracy at war with itself and its humanity. Surin has been recognized and awarded support for his artistry and literary citizenship including by the New England Poetry Club and is the recipient of a Brother Thomas Fellowship from the Boston Foundation and a PEN New England Discovery Award. His poetry has been featured in numerous publications including by the Poetry Foundation and in Poem-a-Day by the Academy of American Poets and his librettos have been commissioned by the Boston Opera Collaborative and were adapted as part of a musical reimagining of Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe song cycle. His short opera, “Last Train," debuted in January 2023 as part of a series of Opera Bites, eight 10-minute operas written by contemporary composers and librettists. Surin currently serves as Founding Editor & 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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