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Winner of the 2021 Academy of American Poets James Laughlin Award
A blistering exploration of America’s legacy of anti-Black violence from an indispensable poet of our time
American history got you down? Are you feeling alienated? Join poet James Cagney in his blistering second collection, Martian: The Saint of Loneliness, as he journeys through time, space, and memory with caustic, satirical beauty. Recall American history through its spent shell casings! Turn familial ghosts into art valuable for generations! In these fully charged poems, James Cagney storms through American fields blooming with artillery and anger on his thirsty quest for love, peace, and acceptance in the smallest, most precious gestures.
About the Author
JAMES CAGNEY was born in Oakland, California in 1968. He studied writing and poetry independently, via the public library, workshops, and the abundant open mic scene in the Bay Area. Cagney is a Cave Canem fellow and has performed in many venues, museums, and programs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as Sacramento, Vancouver, Chicago, and Seattle. He is the author of Black Steel Magnolias In The Hour of Chaos Theory, winner of the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and his newest book, MARTIAN: The Saint of Loneliness, is the winner of the 2021 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.
Publishers Weekly "TOP 10" Poetry collections, Fall 2022
"This is a book to savor, a book you’ll want to read out loud so you can roll its words around your mouth and taste its many flavors. Its 'juke joint of hot broth,' its 'witchcraft of memory,' its 'razorblade blues,' 'dense, funky collards,' and 'star-field of skin' will make you holler with Cagney in his rage, weep with his sadness, gasp in ecstasy, while sharing spaces of an enduring loneliness blended with a hardknowing earned while maintaining compassion and love. You can feast on his images which are at once surreal and down home, steeped in the real and laughing, along with the imagined and remembered. This is a spread of poetry serving history, mythology, memoir, and current events. It is a deeply personal and profoundly universal banquet served in an embracing black that holds inside all the world’s colors and shadings." —devorah major, San Francisco’s 3rd Poet Laureate
"Daring, open, and honest! Cagney’s poetry beams beyond the surface but from the inner regions of his soul. Do yourself a favor, buy, read, and experience Martian." —Thomas Robert Simpson, AfroSolo Theatre Company
"These extraordinary new poems burst off the page, wild controlled explosions demanding our attention with their intelligence, frustration, wisdom, and love. James Cagney is one of our greats, an absolute gem of American poetry, thankfully hidden no longer." —Matthew Zapruder, author of Why Poetry
"This poet uses language as corrective fluid, as antidote, as dream prompt and as spirit surgery. The poems in Martian are sacred salt to be bathed in to cleanse, scattered in doorways and on windowsills for protection, and tasted in medicinal doses. The poems are also beautiful." —Kim Shuck, 7th Poet Laureate of San Francisco
"Cagney’s voice is an arrow released with precision directed at the enemy. Employing irony, wit and truth-telling, Cagney explores his ancestral history in the USA and all the many injustices and lies he and his people had to endure and circumvent to survive. These poems are a complete meal." —Opal Palmer Adisa, PhD, director, Institute for Gender and Development Studies, UWI
"Cagney writes with an explosiveness that is tempered by raw vulnerability. His words lay bare the gorge that separates myth and reality and force an unflinching look at inequity in the US. I will return to this collection again and again." —Elizabeth Gessel, PhD, director, Public Programs at the Museum of the African Diaspora
"Martian deftly synthesizes and articulates personal and ancestral rage against ubiquitous, systemic, and sadistic racism in these times and throughout time. The book is scorching and critical to exposing the gaping wounds of American racism, past and present. A mighty read." —Kimi Sugioka, Poet Laureate of Alameda and author of The Language Of Birds
"This work should be approached like a church doorway, reverently, humbly, and devoid of knowing. Heartbreakingly beautiful, hemorrhaging bitter blues-ed notes, open for consumption, at your risk, for your pleasure." —Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD, Poet Laureate of Oakland