Unslakable is a 2018 Vella Chapbook Award winner available from Paper Nautilus.
How can we say what was once unsayable and then learn to see beyond it? And beyond that seeing, can we dare to move beyond it—and live on our own terms? Rage Hezekiah’s Unslakable takes up this challenge with fierce compassion and a vital, human grace born of having lived and witnessed—and then gone farther. In that way, we can read the title, Unslakable, at once as description, challenge, and difficult desire. “First/you teach the child/what it is to drown/so she’ll know/to save herself” writes Hezekiah. These poems embody the process of walking with the strange weight of history – both personal and cultural – but these poems also carry us through the process of opening ourselves to self-love. Hezekiah’s courageous and thoughtful voice invites us all to rethink those big yet intimate issues: family legacy, sexuality, identity, and power. More than just response, reaction, or counterpoise, Unslakable claims and creates new space for the strength of one woman of color’s body – and vision – and spirit – in our world.
Startling and brutal in its clarity, Unslakable takes on multiple violences lived in an individual body – the trauma of a childhood with an alcoholic parent, the intergenerational inheritance of slavery and racism, the echo of every heartbreak. This is a collection brimming with quiet, the kind of raucous quiet full of unspoken things. Hezekiah's poems don't look away from painful memories, instead facing them head-on with unremitting tenderness. No detail is spared, these concise poems shake with emotion, insisting on naming the past and thereby carving a future, “punishing the silence of no one to blame.” In her poems, sharp-angled pain and hard-won human wisdom are held alongside the barbed beauty of the natural world: gardens of memory, birth and decay, the ocean as ever-present witness of a life lived by the water. In these poems are friendship, lovers, science, anatomy, longing, resilience, and “history's/ detritus.” And, above all, desire, the unslakable, liberatory desire of a poet laying claim to the agony and beauty of a life, and telling us “I want it all for as long as it will last.”
Stray Harbor (2019)
Stray Harbor is forthcoming with Finishing Line Press in August 2019.
Stray Harbor is a collection that helps us remember what it is like to discover the world for the first time. It is a tender meditation on how we learn to love our family and how we learn to love ourselves. Rage Hezekiah has given us a stunning debut, one that signals we're only at the beginning of what promises to be a remarkable literary life.
-Clint Smith, Counting Descent
Hezekiah summons the power of water as we learn to swim and learn to drown in her debut work, Stray Harbor. She introduces us to the fabled Feminist Safe House where her mother taught her the endurance of womanhood, a journey that first requires devastation: “you teach the child / what it is to drown / so she’ll know / to save herself.” She leaves us a bit broken on the shore, that transitional place where the tides invite intoxication and a need to witness what in our living requires abandon. This is an important debut collection.
Stray Harbor invites the reader back into the body, where we find both lonesomeness and abundance. Here, we are called to bear witness to a child who, at nine, “understand[s] the solitude of the cove before dawn,” a father who, “surrenders his fierceness” in water, and a mother in search of reclamation and healing. In a lyric so incredibly tender and finely tuned to the sonic beauty of language, Rage Hezekiah invites her reader to delight in the queer beauty of life, the “unexpected coven” reclaiming “the bellow of our voices,” a woman “head bowed / in reverence to her own / powerful hands, summoning song.” What a song has been summoned here. What a blessed offering, this book, to the weary soul.
-Brionne Janae, After Jubilee