Nestled against the backdrop of Seattle's flora, fauna, and cityscape, Luther Hughes' debut poetry collection wrestles with the interior and exterior symbiosis of a gay Black man finding refuge from the threat of depression and death through love and desire.
Hughes draws readers into a Seattle that is heavily entrenched in violent anti-Blackness, and full of vulnerable and personal encounters from both the speaker’s past and present. With reverent and careful imagery, Hughes fashions deeply saturated, tender vignettes that reckon relationships between family and friends, lovers, nature, and the police-state.A Shiver in the Leaves is stunningly cinematic in its layered portrayal of the never-ending dualities of a queer Black poet’s life in the city. Hughes's interrogation of selfhood renders a sharply intimate and viscerally powerful reimagining of what it means to be alive in a body, and what it can mean to live.
“This is a book of hope, of triumph, even as each day that we wake is a triumph over how things might have been otherwise. ‘Look at all my colors,’ Hughes says, reminding us that black contains all colors, is in that way its own abundance. That abundance includes the erotic, the familial, relationships variously sought and regretted, relationships with others as much as with ourselves, the self as an ever-restless interior of light and shadow. That abundance includes, as well, the hard-won poems of A Shiver in the Leaves, whose music is finally, beautifully, brutally, Hughes’s own.”— Carl Phillips, from the Foreword
“A Shiver in the Leaves is a wild-ride collection of poems that concerns itself with love, and chiefly, what it means to experience the pleasures of erotic love while aware of one’s own Blackness: ‘Everything around me is black for its own good.’ Luther Hughes is also a poet of the family and of the natural world. And all of these elements come forward in this lovely debut that chronicles desire: ‘I want, but I must be careful.’”— Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition
“Luther Hughes’ debut poetry collection resounds with longing—for love, for tenderness, and most of all for mercy. ‘Hunger declares itself,’ and despite his speaker’s attempts to lose himself, despite becoming, for a time, a space where others can be lost, he finds himself, and in so doing is found. Achingly vulnerable, A Shiver in the Leaves reminds us that ‘It’s never enough to love a thing, / you must do the work, too,’ and we hold some measure of our own salvation in our hands.”— Donika Kelly, author of The Renunciations
“Hughes’ enthusiasm and gratitude for the poetic line is not only evidenced in his scholarship, but it sings in this debut. Like a song heard from far away, these poems move the way the writer’s eye does, scouring the landscape and leaving no stone unturned. We’ll be singing to Luther’s lyric for a long time.”— Camonghne Felix, author of Build Yourself a Boat
“What distinguishes the densities of desire from the densities of pain? In A Shiver in the Leaves, Luther Hughes makes poems that richly blur across dark landscapes of eroticism and charged violence, allowing leakages between territories claimed by unsparing appetites and those claimed by the voracity of grief. Animated by a bruised, febrile lyricism, Hughes’ tensile lines plumb the embodied experience of Blackness, queerness, faith, and vexed desire with searing jolts of language and exquisite tenderness. One leaves these poems enlarged, stunned, complexly bereft: ‘Come/let’s plunge forward...grab hold the darkness we become.’”— Jenny Xie, author of Eye Level