The much-awaited second book by a truly revolutionary poet, in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, Allen Ginsberg, and Audre Lorde.
"The tesseraic language of Tongo Eisen-Martin's Heaven Is All Goodbyes brings a new, shared articulation to the intricacies and interconnections of grief and life, speech and site, state and inhabitant, violence and landscape. Here, polyvocal assemblages gather and revolt against our 'porcelain epoch / succeeding for the most part / dying for the most part / married for the most part to its death.' This is resistance as sound."––Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric
This is truly revolutionary poetry. From the corner store to the dilapidated school, from the alleys between downtown office buildings to the prison, voices that have been through too much to care and yet still struggle on, relate the post-industrial U.S. Black experience. A vortex of images, observations, inspired leaps and free associations spill forth from a choir living in oppression and transience, invisible to and dismissive of the mainstream bourgeoisie. Moments of political and spiritual convergence, gangsterism and revolution, surrealism and blunt materiality are captured in the music of metaphor and pure intention. A modern-day Mystic, a true Seer, the depth of the poet's own humanity is rooted in every line, creating a liberated space for pain and beauty through a healing love for his people.
Praise for Heaven Is All Goodbyes:
"I don't know that there is a living writer whose work loves Black people as much as Tongo Eisen-Martin's work loves us. In Heaven Is All Goodbyes, like all of Eisen-Martin's work, this Black love is not clumsy, easy, sentimental or reliant on spectacle. That Black love lives in the cracked history and ambient future of who we've been in the dark, and what's been done to us in the light. These poems somehow watch and listen without intervening. And when they ask, they ask everything. Heaven Is All Goodbyes makes me want to live, and write, with us forever."––Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division
"What a wonderful feeling for life. If we are born—we will die. If we love––we will be rejected. If we are rejected––we will leave. The balance of these poems, one against another, gives us laughter, love and hope. Heaven isn't goodbye––it's only the next stop on our heart's journey."––Nikki Giovanni
"Yet again Tongo Eisen-Martin employs his blade-sharp intellect, his wry and piercing wit and unflinching candor to make poems that matter. This collection demands that the reader sees more than themselves––both on the page and in the surrounding world. The poems beg to be read aloud, to be pronounced as spells and incantations, as reports back from communities both known and shrouded. Read this work. Then read it again. Again. Again."––Chinaka Hodge, author of Dated Emcees
"This striking new work from Tongo Eisen-Martin is a timely reminder of Amiri Baraka's call for poems that are useful, poems that breathe like wrestlers. At every turn, Heaven Is All Goodbyes demands that we engage the systemic violence woven into our daily living right alongside the persistent force that is black social life, the joy that everyday people cultivate against unthinkable odds. And even though Eisen-Martin grounds us, necessarily, in the material constraints of the modern world, he doesn't leave us there. He calls us elsewhere. He brings us with him into a robust, illuminating vision of the worlds that exist outside and underneath the one that seeks to curtail our liberation, contain our love. This is work that challenges as it lifts. These are the unabashed abolitionist lyrics of a writer who knows that stakes are high and so is the cost of conceding our most radical dreams. In a moment marked by cynicism and disenchantment, Eisen-Martin remains a believer: in the commons, in collective struggle, in our capacity to flourish in the midst of what we were never meant to survive."––Joshua Bennett, author of The Sobbing School
Tongo Eisen-Martin is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry book, someone's dead already, and his poetry has been featured in Harper's Magazine. He is also a movement worker and educator whose work in Rikers Island was featured in the New York Times. He has been a faculty member at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, and his curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, "We Charge Genocide Again!" has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country.