Part memoir, part manifesto, part Black speculative novella, The Mandorla Letters: for the hopeful blurs boundaries between this world and an imagined future whose overlapping wisdoms make cooperation with our natural environment a central concern for collective thriving. Extending her ongoing musical project Mandorla Awakening, Nicole Mitchell Gantt explores inequity, the musical legacies of jazz, creative music, and intercultural collaboration to guide readers towards an alternative society that disrupts binaries, hierarchies, and western ideas of progress. Paying homage to artists, musicians, and writers that have inspired her, Mitchell Gantt opens channels for artistic proliferation that is integral to the collective survival of our planet.
“The Mandorla Letters: for the hopeful is an astonishing literary accomplishment by one of our contemporary jazz greats. Through experimental jazz thought, Mitchell Gantt brightens the possibilities for who we, as humans, might become.” —Dawn Lundy Martin, Toi Derricotte Chair in English, Director, Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, University of Pittsburgh
“Nicole Mitchell Gantt’s soulfully inventive guidebook for bold, positive futures is alive with the songs of ancestors, the courage of self-creation. Part memoir, part spectral-cosmic jazz and blues tale, epistolary and remarkably candid, free, this wildly original work offers fresh layers of meaning no matter from when and where you enter.” —Sheree Renée Thomas, Author of Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future
“Nicole Mitchell Gantt has penned an Afrofuturist masterwork, unearthing her musical lens and process through a multi-voiced narrative that invokes cosmic identity. A nonlinear weaving, she maps her imagination through the prism of critical thought, experience, and ancestral inspirations that brings her music to life. This is a must-read for those seeking to understand the star seeds through which Black Experimental Music and creativity at large is born.” —Ytasha L. Womack, Author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi & Fantasy Culture
“Epistolary speculation as memoir; performance document as romance; theory of collaborative composition as extended koan; notebook of a return to native land as otherworldly exit visa—The Mandorla Letters: for the hopeful is unfathomably rich in praise and mourning and morning and impossible arising in devoted grounding and emphatic sounding.” —Fred Moten, Author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition
About the Author: Nicole Mitchell Gantt is an award-winning creative flautist, conceptualist, and composer who teaches at the University of Pittsburgh as the Williams S. Dietrich II Chair and Director of Jazz Studies. She is a former chairwoman of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and Founder of the Black Earth Ensemble. The Mandorla Letters: for the hopeful is her first book.
“There goes the poet Salvador Novo aboard a sleepless taxi. Did you notice his lips? The intense red of his closed lips? Pray he doesn’t open them. People say he has a sharp, poisonous tongue. They say he’s a snake. They say he’s a bitch. They say he’s a whore. I don’t know him personally. I’ve only read his poems, the ones he has written, the ones he’ll write soon.”
Luis Felipe Fabre’s Writing with Caca essays a lyric investigation of the Mexican modernist writer Salvador Novo. Translated with verve by JD Pluecker, the book centers around an investigation and reclaiming of Los Anales, the original, derogatory nickname given to Novo and his compadres in the modernist group Los Contemporáneos. Through Novo, Fabre conjures a poetics of the anus: It is not in vain that the sphinx and the sphincter share a single etymological origin, he writes. Similar to Robert Duncan’s HD Book, Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson, and Pierre Michon’s Rimbaud the Son, Fabre’s Writing with Caca is as much biography as auto-biography, and brings to the US an important work by an important contemporary Mexican writer.
Praise for the book:
A page-turner biography of the poet and writer Salvador Novo whose queer shoulder pushed every wall open. In here is Novo’s deviant knowledge of what the shit and anus reveal of life, yet “resists is sublimation.” This book is not for the timid, or maybe it is precisely for them! —CAConrad
Luis Felipe Fabre, one of the most exciting and virtuosic Mexican poets of his generation, knows a lot of good shit. He knows a lot about Salvador Novo, the scatalogical Mexican poet of the early 20th century who, according to Octavio Paz, wrote “not with blood but with caca.” This terrific book (translated with acrobatic brilliance by John Pluecker), is a work of literary history, literary criticism, poetry, and excretory theory that travels from the Aztecs to Sor Juana to the Mexican Revolution and to contemporary times. Fabre makes a compelling argument for the importance of Novo’s writing with caca, and for the importance of celebrating writers who are driven by the “urge to take a crap on all universal literature.” —Daniel Borzutzky
Humanoid is Joel Craig’s second book, after 2012’s The White House. For this new book, Craig challenged himself to jettison all his old tricks and come up with a new way of writing. Humanoid presents the result of his experiments: an expanded lyric form that drifts across the page, moving between direct discourse and the outer limits of hipster cosmology.
Praise for the book:
These marvelous, intently dialogic poems believe in that presence (and that absence) that we call “the reader.” In Humanoid, each sharply measured poem staggers down the page in its self-interrupting performance, tilting and darting toward an elusive social possibility—that we, whatever “we“ are, might actually come to somehow dwell together. These poems do so in their own fleet idiom of admonishment—self-admonishment and admonishment directed toward others, reader included. It all combines in the rushing substance full of sting, care and delight that is this poetry’s movement. Alertly observant of its own cognition, and the foibles of cognition at the interior of its historical moment, this is harsh and tender, often funny and always deeply urgent work that Joel Craig has given us. Despite all the forces pushing against the possibility of such a thing, there is much love in it. —Anthony McCann, author of Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff and Father of Noise
The speaker of the poems of Joel Craig’s Humanoid floats and careens in the interstices between tract housing, breaking news, love, and existential questions regarding time in the Anthropocene, so called. The difference between what we want to hear and the alternative is terrifying, but it is also where life is now. This book says such things.—Lucy Ives