A deeply wrought and joyful debut poetry collection from an exciting new voice
Looping exultantly through the overlapping experiences of girlhood, Blackness, sex, and personhood in America, award-winning essayist and poet Kendra Allen braids together personal narrative and cultural commentary, wrestling with the beauty and brutality to be found between mothers and daughters, young women and the world, Black bodies and white space, virginity and intrusion, prison and freedom, birth and death. Most of all, The Collection Plate explores both how we collect and erase the voices, lives, and innocence of underrepresented bodies—and behold their pleasure, pain, and possibility
Both formally exciting and a delight to read, The Collection Plate is a testament to Allen’s place as the voice of a generation—and a witness to how we come into being in the twenty-first century.
Kendra Allen was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She is the author of The Collection Plate and When You Learn the Alphabet, and writes the music column “Make Love in My Car” for Southwest Review. In her spare time, she loves laughing and leaving. You can keep up with her work at KendraCanYou.com.
"Allen not only vividly captures the experiences of growing up in a Black religious family in the South, transporting readers through specific childhood memories and beautiful tributes, but also provides powerful cultural commentaries. Recommended for all collections." — Library Journal
“Gospel traditions, erotic need, African American vernacular English and plenty of blank space on well-organized pages. . . . Allen excels—like Clifton, like Robert Burns—as she shifts into and out of standard English.” — New York Times Book Review
“The Collection Plate introduces Kendra Allen as a poet to watch. . . . Allen shines a light on the spaces that connect and divide us, coalescing into an electric portrait of joy and pain.” — Time
"Kendra Allen's poems examine how religion and hierarchy inform the spaces Black women and girls inhabit—and how we blow past those boundaries, swimming toward the horizon even as the undertow threatens to pull us in another direction." — Essence
"A spectacular debut poetry collection . . . marks the arrival of a singular new talent, a poet whose lyricism is artfully matched by the depths of the emotions she conveys. Allen's poems explore themes of Blackness, womanhood, sex, desire, pain, and belonging, offering glimpses of the casual cruelty and sublime beauty that swim just under the surface of all our experiences.” — Refinery 29
“The Collection Plate is as close as we can get to those looming Black spaces beyond and before language. A book shouldn't be able to do this but Kendra Allen is a conjurer as much as she is one of the most complete writers we have ever read.” — Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy and Long Division
“Kendra Allen's Collection Plate is formally and linguistically invigorating, intertwining and juxtaposing personal and cultural histories to take the reader on a vivid emotional exploration. Allen considers Black exploitation, water crises, white feminism, and the notion of equality, among other failures in and of America. . . . Allen is in command of Our Father's, and other deadly forces', presence in her narratives, which she often wields with searing humor. This is a valuable offering; Collection Plate brings to light the dismantling capacity of laughing in the face of power, while directly examining it with eyes fired open.” — Emily Jungmin Yoon, author of A Cruelty Special to Our Species
“These poems blend personal narrative with social commentary to explore the joy, pain, and underrepresented voices of Black womanhood in America. It’s a passionate, fresh, and deeply southern collection that introduces a new voice you won’t want to miss.” — Book Riot