Nestled against the backdrop of Seattle's flora, fauna, and cityscape, Luther Hughes' debut poetry collection wrestles with the interior and exterior symbiosis of a gay Black man finding refuge from the threat of depression and death through love and desire.
Hughes draws readers into a Seattle that is heavily entrenched in violent anti-Blackness, and full of vulnerable and personal encounters from both the speaker’s past and present. With reverent and careful imagery, Hughes fashions deeply saturated, tender vignettes that reckon relationships between family and friends, lovers, nature, and the police-state.
A Shiver in the Leaves is stunningly cinematic in its layered portrayal of the never-ending dualities of a queer Black poet’s life in the city. Hughes's interrogation of selfhood renders a sharply intimate and viscerally powerful reimagining of what it means to be alive in a body, and what it can mean to live.
Excerpt from "In Seattle”
What can I say? I forget all their names.
It was bound to happen.
the wet mouth of rain, the throat that threw,
It’s never enough to love a thing,
you must do the work, too—
except the trees that, in this city,
become an emerald rush of hands reaching out.
How many times must it be said?
There is [blood] parading the streets, I reply.
The market bricks with whirs and wears
the violent churning of noise on its lips like balm.
I drink a cup of coffee,
sitting on a bench overlooking The Sound.
There is so much blue.
Praise for Luther Hughes
"It’s hard to believe that this is Luther Hughes’ debut poetry collection, but his commitment to craft, and the poetry world in general, is nothing new. He does it all, as a writer, editor, podcaster, founder of Shade Literary Arts, and of course, practitioner of this particular art. Is it fair to say that I can’t wait for his next collection when this one is so new?"
— Mandana Chaffa, for Chicago Review of Books
"Brutality and tenderness intertwine in this collection, which illuminates the inner life of a young gay Black man navigating desire, depression, family, and faith. Although the poems are haunted by historical and contemporary violence, they are also often rapturous, revelling in the pleasures of nature and of the body."
— The New Yorker's Best Books of 2022
“This is a book of hope, of triumph, even as each day that we wake is a triumph over how things might have been otherwise. ‘Look at all my colors,’ Hughes says, reminding us that black contains all colors, is in that way its own abundance. That abundance includes the erotic, the familial, relationships variously sought and regretted, relationships with others as much as with ourselves, the self as an ever-restless interior of light and shadow. That abundance includes, as well, the hard-won poems of A Shiver in the Leaves, whose music is finally, beautifully, brutally, Hughes’s own.”
— Carl Phillips, from the Foreword
“Luther Hughes’ debut poetry collection resounds with longing—for love, for tenderness, and most of all for mercy. ‘Hunger declares itself,’ and despite his speaker’s attempts to lose himself, despite becoming, for a time, a space where others can be lost, he finds himself, and in so doing is found. Achingly vulnerable, A Shiver in the Leaves reminds us that ‘It’s never enough to love a thing, / you must do the work, too,’ and we hold some measure of our own salvation in our hands.”
— Donika Kelly, author of The Renunciations
Publication date: September 27, 2022
© BOA Editions, Ltd. 2021