This retrospective volume unflinchingly explores the author’s complex experiences as a light-skinned black woman in America. . . . Derricotte’s attention lingers on places of struggle where life is at its most vibrant, urgent, and surprising.
Winner, 2020 Frost Medal Finalist, 2019 National Book Award
Toi Derricotte’s story is a hero’s journey—a poet earning her way home, to her own commanding powers. “I”: New and Selected Poems shows the reader both the closeness of the enemy and the poet’s inherent courage, inventiveness, and joy.It is a record of one woman’s response to the repressive and fracturing forces around the subjects of race, class, color, gender, and sexuality. Each poem is an act of victory as the author finds her way through repressive forces to speak with beauty and truth.
This collection features more than thirty new poems as well as selections from five previous collections.
In this new and selected collection, Derricotte writes with her characteristic candor and grace. And Telly! Telly! Telly the goldfish, ‘his swishy tail a magisterial emblem / of the Living God.’ The ‘i’ of these poems is not afraid to love a goldfish, not afraid to write that love into poems full of trusting sincerity and deep connection. She knocks me out every time.
'I' offers Derricotte a bit of Thoreau’s doubleness, a chance to stand outside of her impressive body of work and view it anew. Thus the writer, much like the reader, has a fresh experience of 'All the years / of fear and raging / in my poems, the years I continued / in thankless silence — until I was empty / of it...'
What song do you sing when you sing ‘so low we can't hear you?’ Toi Derricotte makes poetry of that song. It rises from ‘the houses where you hear the least squealing,’ it is ‘quieter than blossoms & near invisible.’ It is filled with witness and love for our literal and literary families.
No writer I know of explores with more honesty the sorrows and wonders and joys and shames and tenderness of being alive. No writer is more tender. And no poems I know of make me feel witnessed, held, beheld, the way Derricotte’s do. Her poems behold us. I am so grateful for these poems. I am so grateful for Derricotte’s beautiful heart.
These exceptional new poems reveal one of America's strongest and most ardent poets mid-strife, on fire, charging forward toward all that is false in our lives and in our world. How endlessly grateful I feel that, once again, she has allowed us to accompany her.
The new poems in Toi Derricotte’s collection ‘I’ reveal that she has entered an entire new sphere as a poet, in which the struggles fall away and the spirits take her hands and float her forward. After years of wrestling with her demons, Derricotte has awakened—enlightened, serene, truth coming to her, through her, so casually. She has earned this grace with all her hard work, suffering and love.
Toi Derricotte is an award-winning poet whose work tackles difficult and universal subject matter such as violence, racism, motherhood, and self-identity through an autobiographical lens. She is the author of The Undertaker’s Daughter and four previous poetry collections,including Tender, winner of the Paterson PoetryPrize. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizesand fellowships from the National Endowmentfor the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation,among other honors. Derricotte is cofounder ofCave Canem, professor emerita at the Universityof Pittsburgh, and a chancellor of the Academy ofAmerican Poets.