My Favorite Tyrants
Winner of the 2014 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
Brittingham Prize in Poetry
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor
The word “tyrant” carries negative connotations, but in this new collection, Joanne Diaz tries to understand what makes tyranny so compelling, even seductive. These dynamic, funny, often poignant poems investigate the nature of tyranny in all of its forms—political, cultural, familial, and erotic. Poems about Stalin, Lenin, and Castro appear beside poems about deeply personal histories. The result is a powerful exploration of desire, grief, and loss in a world where private relationships are always illuminated and informed by larger, more despotic forces.
“Rich with smart, deft scenes—places you may not have been before, exactly, but feel strangely at home in. Congratulations to this transporting, potent poet.”
—Naomi Shihab Nye, Brittingham Prize judge
“Forged of equal parts brains and brass, these poems bleed and shine and all but blind us. How wild they are, how beautiful! I love the way Joanne Diaz uses light and noise to tell us more than any history book can of the tyrants who distort yet give meaning to our lives: Castro, Stalin, our teachers, our parents, ourselves.”
“Exquisitely attentive to the given world, to history, to the human heart, to the cadence of words: the poems in this volume share all the virtues of Joanne Diaz’s earlier work. What is new is the freer discursive range and the sharpened abutments of tenderness and astringency. Elegy meets social satire in these pages, the TSA watch list meets an elegant Persian poetic form. In the world these poems refuse to disown, sorrow smells like Lysol in the toilet stalls and bounty is undaunted by formica: it’s a joy to see how largeness of spirit and clear-eyed penetration can sustain one another. Her favorite tyrants? Above all, the dictates of memory and love.”
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LC: 2013027989 PS
80 pp. 7 x 9