We’re proud to announce the publication of Exquisite by September, a collection of poems by Shayla Hawkins.
How is an American Black woman to navigate and maintain her sanity in a nation fraught with racism, pestilence, misogyny, and political upheaval? In Exquisite by September, Hawkins chronicles the zeitgeist of the early 21st century United States and her place in it. By turns humorous, melancholy, and sensual, this collection is a poetic museum through which Hawkins, as curator and guide, shares glimpses into different facets or “galleries” of her being.
Diane DeCillis, author of Strings Attached and When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double, said, “There’s an exotic sensualness threading the poems in Hawkins’ outstanding collection…Hawkins skillfully balances moments of deep pleasure, love, and beauty with harsh societal realities in a truly exquisite collection you will not want to miss.”
Marilyn Kallet, author of Even When We Sleep and How Our Bodies Learned, said, “Shayla Hawkins offers us many reasons to fall in love with poetry again: her lyrics are spare, unaffected and deeply felt. They know how to sing to us, how to awaken the poetry in each of us.”
Tanya Shirley, author of She Who Sleeps with Bones and The Merchant of Feathers, said, “Exquisite by September takes us to real and imagined places where all our senses are aroused and ordinary experiences are bathed in the lush light of imagery and metaphor. We’re invited to feel more deeply a first kiss, the resonance of words, the presence of a ghost; to hear the sounds beneath a song, to draw new meanings from a painting and find new ways to savour ‘the rip tide and rapture of [our] flesh.’”
Cedric Tillman, author of Lilies in the Valley and In My Feelins, said, “Raised in Motown, molded by the music of its Electrifying Mojo, Hawkins unapologetically revels in what is elicited in so many of us by the shadows cast by parabola and curve—she extends to us, at the very least, a merciful sympathy for how it moves us to song. This collection reflects on how the softness of a grandmother is as much a story of her breasts as her kiss; reminds us that Jesse Johnson was worthy of peerage, if not a prince; recalls the tectonics of tongues ‘licked like a needle on a record.’ Her candor is a declaration that she is privy to the ‘pretenses of our decorum.’ Paddle ‘the shallow waters of respectability’ if you want to, but Shayla Hawkins ain’t the one.”
A poet from Detroit, Michigan, Hawkins is the author of Carambola. She is a winner of The Caribbean Writer Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for Short Fiction and The John Edgar Wideman Microstory Contest. Her collection of poems Exquisite by September was a 2020 runner up for the Cave Canem/Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize.