Heaven Is All Goodbyes

Heaven Is All Goodbyes
Pocket Poets Series No. 61





Cultural Weekly

"The 42 poems in this poet's second book are a volatile cocktail of surrealism, blunt images, raw observations and transcendent epiphanies. Eisen-Martin is a poetic Jimi Hendrix on the page and the stage."––Mike Sonksen


Heaven Is All Goodbyes Named American Book Award Winner
Aug 13, 2018

Heaven Is All Goodbyes wins a 2018 American Book Award!

- Before Columbus Foundation

San Francisco Chronicle

"[T]he poems of [Eisen-Martin's] astonishing book Heaven Is All Goodbyes come together and read in a way that's similar to his speech . . . he paints tragic pictures of death, oppressive systems and cigarettes dragged in order to breathe. . . . The voices enter and exit without explanation and are part of what makes his poems at once urgent protests and jazz-like puzzles."––Brandon Yu


Publishers Weekly

"Eisen-Martin responds to state violence, deindustrialization, police brutality, the prison industrial-complex, and more in this churning whirlpool that records the complicated experiences faced by members of the African diaspora in America. He looks to history, writing of 'the way condemned Africans fought their way back to the ocean only to find waves made of / 1920s burned up piano parts / European backdoor deals / and red flowers for widows who spend all day in the sun mumbling at San Francisco.' But as an educator and organizer, Eisen-Martin is also steeped in the current moment. The passion with which he writes calls the reader to join the masses in the streets: 'you are going to want/ to lose that job / before the revolution hits.' It's a slippery, complex collection; long poems of polyphonic voices slalom across the margins of the page while unattributed quotes pop in and out, like singular expressions in a protest crowd. 'We got plenty of pain/ to stay on this guitar/ for one hundred years,' declares an anonymous voice in 'May Day' amid swirls of lament and celebration. Unabashedly a product of 21st-century America and fully attuned to its historical lineage, Eisen-Martin’s impeccable collection is a crucial document of this time."


"Acclaimed local poet takes international stage with prestigious award"
Jun 14, 2018

Interview with Tongo Eisen-Martin & City Lights publisher Elaine Katzenberger.

- Jessika Karlsson

"The 2018 YBCA 100 List"
Jul 10, 2018

Tongo Eisen-Martin named to the 2018 YBCA 100 List, recognizing 100 people, organizations, and movements that are using their platforms to create change and move society forward.


"Griffin Poetry Prize finalists explain the necessity of their art"
Jun 1, 2018

Tongo Eisen-Martin interviewed along with his fellow Griffin Poetry Prize finalists in The Toronto Star.

- Deborah Dundas

"Celebrating poetry in its mass-market moment ahead of 2018 Griffin Prize gala"
May 30, 2018

Heaven Is All Goodbyes mentioned in this article about the Griffin Poetry Prize finalists.

- Becky Toyne

"Heaven Is All Goodbyes shortlisted for Griffin International Poetry Prize"
Apr 10, 2018

Among 4 finalists for this award. Judges' citation: "Tongo Eisen-Martin’s Heaven Is All Goodbyes moves between trenchant political critique and dreamlike association, demonstrating how, in the right hands, one mode might energize the other—keeping alternative orders of meaning alive in the face of radical injustice. Eisen-Martin’s voice is a chorus of other voices, many arising from prisons and landscapes of engineered poverty; his poems are places where discourses and vernaculars collide and recombine into new configurations capable of expressing outrage and sorrow and love. This unpredictable volume is equally a work of commitment and of wonder; no false consolation, no settling for despair. Its music makes a clearing in the dominant logic of the day. 'When a drummer is present, he or she is God // I am not an I. / I am a black commons.’"


"Heaven Is All Goodbyes among finalists for California Book Awards"
Mar 28, 2018

American Poetry Review

"Eisen-Martin's poetry presents a frank and unflinching portrait of the contemporary urban imagination unrelentingly ravaged by social injustice. He serves witness to how prevalent the imbalances of race and power in our society are."––Patrick James Dunagan


"Tongo Eisen-Martin profiled in SF Examiner"
Mar 18, 2018
- Denise Sullivan

Small Press Distribution

"Eisen-Martin explores cities and lives that are perpetually demeaned and destroyed, inhibited or dominated completely. It's charged with injustices, what faces we put on for what is intolerable. He laces perspectives in italics or quotes—like backup singers or alter egos within each poem. It creates a vision that is furious, observant, and wise. There are so many stray lines that are memorable, have history to them already. Some share stark truth—'If it has a prison, it is a prison' goes one in 'Faceless.' Some are world-weary and funny, earned—'Market Street' is the best two-word joke I have ever heard in San Francisco.'"—Liam Curley


"Just Keep Running: A Conversation with Tongo Eisen-Martin by Jeffrey Grunthaner"
Dec 22, 2017
- BOMB Magazine

"Tongo Eisen-Martin with Marshall Trammell: October 7, 2017"
Dec 12, 2017

Footage of Tongo Eisen-Martin performing with musical accompaniment by Marshall Trammell. The two collaborated on a performance at the Green Arcade, a bookstore in San Francisco, filmed by San Francisco State University's Poetry Center.

- The Poetry Center

A Poem from Heaven Is All Goodbyes is excerpted in the New York Times Magazine, with commentary by Terrance Hayes
Dec 8, 2017

"This poem displays the poetics between Babel and Babylon, a style compressed and personal enough to conjure Amiri Baraka, Baudelaire and Bob Kaufman. It makes reading a kind of revision, a reviewing, a reseeing. We overhear sketches of consciousness. An ominous mood carries through words like 'killed,' 'poor,' 'eulogy,' 'jail' and 'pain.' The poem resists subject, but sometimes subject is the least engaging part."

- Terrance Hayes

East Bay Booksellers

"If you've heard Tongo Eisen-Martin read before, it’s hard not to hear him all over again as you read his work. There is a musicality to his performance, and it’s fed by the language he puts on paper. This is radical black poetry—it’s important American poetry. It’s Coltrane, Ginsberg, and Gil Scott-Heron, all alive again . . . having never died. It’s being human and fragile. It’s resisting arrest. It’s living and breathing against all the forces of law and order, that would prefer you’d not."


"2 poems from Heaven Is All Goodbyes excerpted in Literary Hub"
Nov 13, 2017

"Susan Lewis does a close reading of Tongo Eisen-Martin's poem, 'Waving at the People Walking Upside-Down'"
Nov 1, 2017
- Susan Lewis

Mask Magazine
Oct 1, 2017

"Heaven Is All Goodbyes makes no promises . . . Instead, it recites a prayer that doesn't expect to be answered . . . The equanimity and confidence of these poems cut through catastrophe, reminding us to stay attuned to the present moment, sensitive to whatever circumstances we may end up in."—H. Jordan


"Reading With . . . Tongo Eisen-Martin"
Sep 15, 2017

Tongo Eisen-Martin interview appears in Shelf-Awareness's daily newsletter.


"Poem from 'Heaven Is All Goodbyes' appears in SF Chronicle's 'State Lines’ Series"
Sep 14, 2017

An excerpt from the poem "Wave at the People Walking Upside Down" appears in the Sunday Edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, with a commentary by series editor David Roderick.


"Tongo Eisen-Martin Joins 'Pocket Poet' Series at City Lights"
Sep 14, 2017

Coverage of Tongo Eisen-Martin's reading at City Lights Bookstore, and a small interview.


"Tongo Eisen-Martin profiled on KALW's 'Crosscurrents'"
Sep 13, 2017

"A revolutionary poet fans the Bay's literary fires," a radio piece profiling Tongo Eisen-Martin. Includes recordings of him performing, and interviews with Eisen-Martin and Elaine Katzenberger, publisher & executive director at City Lights.


KQED Arts

"There is a sublime cadence in Eisen-Martin's work that is polyphonic, gritty, and unexpectedly fragile, like jazz. These poems yell, shriek, whisper, mumble in a mosaic of disenfranchised voices pondering police brutality, guns, the power of community, the terror of inherited addiction, and the cold nature of a city that blankets the poor and colored in oppression. ...I don't know about you, but it’s exactly the type of poetry I would want to be reading at the end of the world—the kind that holds a mirror to itself, then a mirror to that mirror."––Ingrid Rojas Contreras


"First few lines from 'Heaven Is All Goodbyes' excerpted in Poets & Writers 'Page One’ feature"
Aug 16, 2017

First few lines from 'Heaven Is All Goodbyes' excerpted in Poets & Writers 'Page One’ feature


"Publishers Weekly picks Heaven Is All Goodbyes as one of its 'Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2017'"
Jul 28, 2017

Publishers Weekly picks Heaven Is All Goodbyes as one of its 'Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2017'

- Publishers Weekly

"Fall 2017 Announcements: Poetry"
Jun 13, 2017

Heaven Is All Goodbyes featured in the seasonal poetry preview.

- Alex Crowley

"For Better, for Verse: Poetry 2017"
Mar 31, 2017

Heaven Is All Goodbyes is included in this list of books that are "urgent as ever" in todays' political climate.

- Publishers Weekly