Tiana Clark is the winner of the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. Clark is the winner of the 2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize, 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize, and winner of a 2019 Pushcart Prize. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Best New Poets 2015, BOAAT, Crab Orchard Review, Thrush, The Journal, and elsewhere. The Los Angeles native recently graduated from Vanderbilt University’s MFA program, where she served as the poetry editor of the Nashville Review. She teaches creative writing at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
Poetry Reading: Chelsea Rathburn, Tiana Clark
With singular vision and potent poetic form, Chelsea Rathburn (Still Life with Mother and Knife) seeks to voice matters once deemed unspeakable, and crafts a complex portrait of girlhood and motherhood from which it is impossible to look away. Tiana Clark (I Can’t Talk About the Trees without the Blood) expresses the impossibility of engaging with the physical and psychic landscape of the South without seeing the braided trauma of the broken past. Join these two poets as they read from their new collections.
James Davis May lives in Macon, Georgia, where he serves as Writer-in-Residence at Mercer University. His first poetry collection, Unquiet Things, was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2016 and selected as a finalist for the Poets’ Prize.
I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood
For poet Tiana Clark, trees will never be just trees. They will also and always be a row of gallows from which Black bodies once swung. This is an image that she cannot escape, but one that she has learned to lean into as she delves into personal and public histories, explicating memories and muses around race, elegy, family, and faith by making and breaking forms as well as probing mythology, literary history, her own ancestry, and, yes, even Rihanna. I Can’t Talk About the Trees without the Blood, because Tiana cannot engage with the physical and psychic landscape of the South without seeing the braided trauma of the broken past—she will always see blood on the leaves.