“Full of wonder.” —Elizabeth Acevedo
A Best Book of the Year at BuzzFeed, Refinery29, and Entropy Magazine
What makes a self? In her remarkable debut collection of poems, Destiny O. Birdsong writes fearlessly towards this question. Laced with ratchetry, yet hungering for its own respectability, Negotiations is about what it means to live in this America, about Cardi B and top-tier journal publications, about autoimmune disease and the speaker’s intense hunger for her own body—a surprise of self-love in the aftermath of both assault and diagnosis. It’s a series of love letters to black women, who are often singled out for abuse and assault, silencing and tokenism, fetishization and cultural appropriation in ways that throw the rock, then hide the hand. It is a book about tenderness and an indictment of people and systems that attempt to narrow black women’s lives, their power. But it is also an examination of complicity—both a narrative and a black box warning for a particular kind of self-healing that requires recognizing culpability when and where it exists.
Stunning. . . . A powerful paean to Black womanhood—to resilience, and, especially, triumph.
Destiny O. Birdsong is a phenomenal poet. . . . Negotiations signals the arrival of a voice we should all be paying attention to, one that thoughtfully and purposefully broadens our thinking about the interiority of Black women’s lives.
Radiant and vital. . . . It’s a collection best read slowly, and then again.
Birdsong’s poems reveal the ways that so many borders—nation, race, gender—are structured to maintain hierarchies of allegiance and care. . . . The emergencies of the present are scored through with the fault lines of the past. Birdsong’s poems transform as they touch.
—The Paris Review
Destiny O. Birdsong’s striking debut poetry collection explores complicity, rebukes systemic racism and hate, and celebrates the lives of Black women.
The splintered chorus of the poems’ speakers heal themselves, feed themselves, love themselves; become their own lovers as they re-negotiate their relationships to self. Birdsong writes her body and the bodies of Black women before and alongside her inside out—bones, viscera, blood at the back of the throat—to arrive at a transcendence of Black women’s bodies beyond sites of violence.
The 34 poems in the volume are extremely readable, so much so that it’s tempting to rush through them. Don’t. Take your time. Ease into these poems. They’re worth it.
—The Nashville Scene
Negotiations is made rich by its natural complexity, with few stones left unturned—poems address silencing, fetishization, tokenism and cultural appropriation with fierce honesty, the sum of which amount to an artfully written love letter to Black women in America. In Birdsong’s debut, every angle of the self is worthy of recognition.
An extraordinary string of immaculate, brutal narratives about systemic violence and racism, and their repercussions for Black American women. . . . Birdsong’s striking imagery and contagious fervor are a potent salve against apathy and foreboding.
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Exquisite. . . . Birdsong’s poems bring the heart and the heat.
Reading Negotiations is like walking into a boxing match with an indefatigable fighter; you will be struck, and it will hurt. But for all of its ferocity in how it grapples with womanhood, sexuality, assault, and race, this collection is also full of wonder. Of forgiveness. Of tenderness, the like of which, ultimately, delivers the most powerful sucker punch.
—Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X
Negotiations is an intimate, stunning collection. Destiny O. Birdsong’s poems examine systems of power and oppression, violence, complicity. These poems are desire, survival, the body, rage, vulnerability. A fierce celebration of black womanhood.
—Jaquira Díaz, author of Ordinary Girls
The terms of Destiny O. Birdsong’s Negotiations are scalding and tender. . . . Birdsong excavates a national history and her speaker’s personal histories, tracks how their intersections and aftermaths wreak havoc in the woman who survives. But Birdsong’s Negotiations endgame is not simply survival—it aims to flourish.
—Donika Kelly, author of Bestiary
Reading Negotiations is like grabbing a piece of metal so cold it feels like fire in your palm. . . . A collection that is equal parts pain and power.
—Josh Cook, Porter Square Books