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Tin House Live : Negotiating the Love and Renouncing the Rest with Destiny O. Birdsong and Donika Kelly

“Negotiating the Love and Renouncing the Rest,” today’s Tin House Live conversation between poets Destiny O. Birdsong & Donika Kelly, was recorded at the 2021 Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. Among many other things, they ask what it would mean to center yourself in your own work, in your own story. How would that look, and what would need to be decentered to make that happen on the page? They also talk about writing (or not writing) into and about abuse and trauma, about families of origin and chosen families, and much more.

Destiny O. Birdsong is a poet, novelist, and essayist whose debut poetry collection, Negotiations, was published in 2020 by Tin House and longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Voelcker Award. Elizabeth Acevedo said of Birdsong’s collection: “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.” Destiny Birdsong’s debut novel, Nobody’s Magic, is forthcoming in February 2022 from Grand Central Publishing.

Donika Kelly is the author of  Bestiary from Graywolf, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The collection was also longlisted for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for a Publishing Triangle Award and a Lambda Literary Award. And she is the author of the poetry collection The Renunciations, out this year from Graywolf. A collection poet Ellen Bass describes as follows: “In her vital new poetry collection, Donika Kelly harnesses ‘the air, the earth, and flame’ to renounce the old gods: child abuse, violence, racial injustice, generational trauma. . . . The Renunciations is a work of stunning power, alive with haunting images, complex metaphor. And while Kelly looks unsparingly at pain and suffering—her own and others’—with transformation comes joy.”

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