In a country where violence and the threat of violence is a constant weather for queer Black people, where can the spirit rest?
With lush language, the meditative poems in the Isabella Gardner Award-winning Tenderness examine the fraught nature of intimacy in a nation poisoned by anti-Blackness and homophobia. From the bedroom to the dance floor, from the natural world to The Frick, from the Midwest to Florida to Mexico City, the poems range across interior and exterior landscapes. They look to movies, fine art, childhood memory, history, and mental health with melancholy, anger, and playfulness.
Even amidst sorrow and pain, Tenderness uplifts communal spaces as sites of resistance and healing, wonders at the restorative powers of art and erotic love, and celebrates the capaciousness of friendship.
Praise for Derrick Austin and Tenderness:
“This is a stunning collection for these challenging times when intimacy has escaped us but will, eventually, return. Let this book be your primer.”
—NPR's 2021 Poetry Preview
“Derrick Austin is to a blank page what Titian was to a white canvas. In both of their works, audiences will find an exemplary adroitness with portrait, landscape, and myth. Tenderness, Austin’s second poetry collection, weaves a sinuous lyric that navigates both the physical and metaphysical surroundings of a traveler desirous of understanding, desirous of being understood. The reader senses a certain urgency in the question of how to find tenderness and connection in a world intent on the project of othering. Austin skillfully excavates the rhizomatic truth of belonging and the vulnerable places where God can be found—a touch, a glance, a history, a remembrance.”
—Airea D. Matthews
“It's nice to know that poetry is still a place to go and find some Tenderness, and Derrick Austin's gentle touch is filled with genuine compassion and those soft wounds of the heart that act as release. ‘A heaven wider than androgyny is sugar on my tongue.’ The world is not shut out but let in, writ in dew and dust, ecstatic invocations and quiet elegies, hurricanes and the calm just after. After all, tenderness is not only sweet. It is also the place where we recognize the threshold of pain. ‘There's a snowbank / of roses on the sidewalk / where America unmade me.’”
—D. A. Powell
Praise for Derrick Austin’s Trouble the Water:
“In Austin’s hands, the exquisite can be ominous while the grotesque can turn charming, and his poems wisely assert that the world is unforgiving and yet full of mercy—that one can question beauty and yet still be beholden to it.”
“This is quite simply one of the most charged commentaries on race, sex, and film I have ever read, and the form never lets us forget what we’re talking about.”
“Precise and focused, Austin’s language often seems ekphrastic, as though he had a picture in front of him as he writes. In a few of the poems, he clearly does, but it is his voice and vision, not his method, that are ekphrastic.”
"For the gay black body, the gay black speaker who is the main voice of this book, there is no separating racist interactions from homophobic ones. Articulations of danger and desire, passion and pain—interactions with the white world, the straight world—are expressed through the murkiness of prejudice, of the compounded baggage of seemingly mutually exclusive histories.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
- Isabella Gardner Award