In May, Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color will be released from Nightboat Books. This anthology is the first of its kind in the United States and includes the work from legendary queer poets of color, over the past 100 years (since the Harlem Renaissance). Everyone from Langston Hughes, to June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Rigoberto González, Joy Harjo, Ocean Vuong and more are included in this monumental book. It is my hope that this anthology will be of service to queer poets of color in the generations to come. And also, I hope this book makes its way into Ethnic Studies and Women and Gender Studies classrooms everywhere. Below is an excerpt from the anthology, which features five contemporary queer poets of color: Brenda Shaughnessy, Eduardo C. Corral, Steffan Triplett, Candace Williams, and Myriam Gurba. All of the poets below are featured in the Nepantla anthology. —Christopher Soto
I Have A Time Machine But unfortunately it can only travel into the future at a rate of one second per second, which seems slow to the physicists and to the grant committees and even to me. But I manage to get there, time after time, to the next moment and to the next. Thing is, I can’t turn it off. I keep zipping ahead— well, not zipping—And if I try to get out of this time machine, open the latch, I’ll fall into space, unconscious, then desiccated! And I’m pretty sure I’m afraid of that. So I stay inside. There’s a window, though. It shows the past. It’s like a television or fish tank but it’s never live, it’s always over. The fish swim in backward circles. Sometimes it’s like a rearview mirror, another chance to see what I’m leaving behind, and sometimes like blackout, all that time wasted sleeping. Myself age eight, whole head burnt with embarrassment at having lost a library book. Myself lurking in a candled corner expecting to be found charming. Me holding a rose though I want to put it down so I can smoke. Me exploding at my mother who explodes at me because the explosion of some dark star all the way back struck hard at mother’s mother’s mother. I turn away from the window, anticipating a blow. I thought I’d find myself an old woman by now, travelling so light in time. But I haven’t gotten far at all. Strange not to be able to pick up the pace as I’d like; the past is so horribly fast. —Brenda Shaughnessy
To a Straight Man All zodiac all radar your voice I carried it across the Atlantic to Barcelona I photographed cathedrals cacti mosaic salamanders I even photo- graphed my lust always your voice skimming a woman’s skin mattress springs so noisy so birdlike you filled her room with cages camera bright in my pocket map unfolding in my mind I explored a park leaves notched & enormous graffitied boulders then three men tall & clean closed in they broke open my body with their fists insufferable your red wool cap insufferable the way you walked away from me come back please the buttons on your jacket are finches I wanted to yell as you vanished into a hotel to drink with your friends there was nothing more you could do after my attackers left before I got up I touched my face almost tenderly —Eduardo C. Corral
Black Sonnet A black child lies in blood and I’m still black. I scan news on my phone and I’m still black. They call my name to board and I’m still black. I sit and sip a Sprite and I’m still black. We take off right on time and I’m still black. I peer at vast blue sea and I’m still black. I take my black tea black and I’m still black. I read a piece by Marx and I’m still black. I get lost and turn back and I’m still black. I make the right slight right and I’m still black. I ring the front bell twice and I’m still black. My love smiles with her eyes and I’m still black. We kick it for a bit and I’m still black. I turn off all the lights and I’m still black. —Candace Williams
Constellated My friend bought A star and named that Star after her boyfriend. I gaze at the summer sky, Wondering, “Is that you, Chuy Gómez?” —Myriam Gurba
Brenda Shaughnessy earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MFA from Columbia University. She is the author of Interior with Sudden Joy (1999), Human Dark with Sugar (2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, Our Andromeda (2012), and So Much Synth (2016). Her work has appeared in the Yale Review, the Boston Review, McSweeney’s, and Best American Poetry, among other places.
Eduardo C. Corral’s first book, Slow Lightning, was selected by Carl Phillips as the 2011 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. He is the recipient of a “Discovery”/The Nation Award, the J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from Poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and fellowships from Yaddo and MacDowell. His poems have appeared in many journals, including Ambit, Beloit Poetry Journal, New England Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, and Poetry. He’s an assistant professor in the M.F.A. program at North Carolina State University. Currently, he’s a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.
Steffan Triplett is a writer and instructor from Joplin, Missouri. Some of his work appears or will appear in DIAGRAM, The Offing, BOAAT Journal, Underblong, The Shade Journal, Essay Daily, Red Paint Hill, Kweli Journal, and Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color
Candace Williams is a black queer nerd living a double life. By day, she is a progressive middle school humanities educator and robotics coach. By night and subway ride, she’s a poet. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the PEN Poetry Series, Tin House Online, Hyperallergic, Lambda Literary Review, Copper Nickel, and the Brooklyn Poets Anthology (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2017), among other places. She’s earned a MA in Elementary Education from Stanford University, a Brooklyn Poets Fellowship, Pushcart nominations, and scholarships from Cave Canem and the Fine Arts Work Center. She was a 2017 Create Change Fellow at the Laundromat Project.
Myriam Gurba is a queer spoken-word performer, visual artist, and writer from Santa Maria, California. Mean, a “true crime, memoir, ghost story,” is forthcoming from Coffee House Press. She is also the author of Dahlia Season (2007, Manic D) which won the Edmund White Award, Wish You Were Me (2011, Future Tense Books), and Painting Their Portraits in Winter (2015, Manic D). She has toured with Sister Spit and has written for Time, kcet, and The Rumpus. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. She lives in California, where she teaches social studies to eighth-graders.