Punks: New & Selected Poems

John Keene


The Song Cave, 2021. Softcover, 234pp., 6 x 8 inches


A landmark collection of poetry by acclaimed fiction writer, translator, and MacArthur Fellow John Keene, Punks: New & Selected Poems is a generous treasury in seven sections that spans decades and includes previously unpublished and brand new work. With depth and breadth, Punks weaves together historic narratives of loss, lust, and love. The many voices that emerge in these poems—from historic Black personalities, both familial and famous, to the poet's friends and lovers in gay bars and bedrooms—form a cast of characters capable of addressing desire, oppression, AIDS, and grief through sorrowful songs that "we sing as hard as we live." At home in countless poetic forms, Punks reconfirms John Keene as one of the most important voices in contemporary poetry.

Wow. Get Punks. Loads of ritual and performative lyric here, essential stuff. Histories, his brain ranges through the past impossibly, like an elegant thrift. I bow my head to Boston as it passes along the edges here of its demi-monde, then wrenching prose poems that are pretty much explorations of radiant metonymies of someone being black and queer like only John Keene is. This is one rich and thorough (I say pithy) fucking book.     -Eileen Myles