This title is available for pre-order and will ship on it's publication date: April 9th 2024.
In Every Hard Sweetness, Carter-Jones chronicles Civil Rights’ era atrocities through the story of her family’s experience with an all-too-common practice in which Black men were wrongfully incarcerated in institutions for the criminally insane. The result is a stunning work reflecting on race, criminalization, and the devastating consequences of a Black father’s incarceration on his psyche and family, specifically his Black daughter. Told through a mixture of photography, ekphrasis, and erasure, Carter-Jones’ powerful collection creates an extraordinary record of her family’s life at a time of great suffering and upheaval.
Excerpt from EVERY HARD SWEETNESS
How do I say
I am afraid to cross the threshold,
enter the body of a house where they
came to disappear a man. Should I
willingly become an innocent bride to
Darkness—let it lift and carry me over
—keep secret its doings in the long
twilight of a man gone-dead?
They came for him.
The man who has the ability to create his
own image. They came for him. To
steal his too big voice that gathers.
Demands. Dares disrupt like a crack in
the kitchen wall making its own path as
it opens to bear obvious weight of
things that have become normal and
settled over time.
I make my body a wall.
To not cause the crack to deepen, widen,
and grow longer. I plaster a smile. Tape
myself shut so no words destroy my silent
aesthetic. Insert a peep-hole between two
realities. With tiny gestures I put fork to
mouth. I eat but do not taste sweet, sour
or salty. Only bitter.
Praise for EVERY HARD SWEETNESS
“Every Hard Sweetness is an extraordinary work of history and possibility. Within the brutal conditions of every state-sanctioned terror against her family, the poet makes a brilliant record of a deeply disciplined, steadfast tenderness. Placing her art practice beside that of her father’s, she asks readers to think with her about personal, familial, and national imaginations. Out of these conditions, Sheila Carter-Jones creates a stunning, experimental work that pushes on the edges of what language can even hold, making a work that asks its readers to engage in an ongoing practice of attention, scrutiny, and care. These arrangements touch me into new thinking and feeling, across time.”
— Aracelis Girmay, author of the black maria
“Every Hard Sweetness is testament to the adage that stories indeed matter, especially a story as powerful as this one. Through her expert command of richly textured language and striking imagery, Sheila Carter-Jones chronicles the racism that led to her father’s detainment at a state hospital for the criminally insane, the resulting family trauma, their attempts to recover, and her own ongoing struggles as a Black female in America. With the authoritative and unflinching voice of an emotional historian, these poems document and expose the racism and bigotry that still haunt America, through the personal as well as public lens. And yet, for all the hard moments of this story, there is also a kind of sweetness in the way that the poet renders tender family moments, honors victims of injustice, commands herself in the world, rises above it, and holds on to hope.”
— Richard Blanco, Presidential Inaugural Poet
“Sheila Carter-Jones’ Every Hard Sweetness is a remarkable chronicle of survivorship and resistance with respect to Civil Rights’ era atrocities and their legacies. This astonishing book breaks silence about the ‘gone-dead’—a practice in which Black men labeled as ‘troublemakers’ were arrested and forcibly removed from their homes and families, then wrongfully incarcerated in institutions for the criminally insane. Carter-Jones’ father was one of the ‘gone-dead’ who disappeared into ‘cold storage’ for over seven years for speaking up and speaking out. In powerful and incandescent poems, Carter-Jones deftly navigates the ongoing repercussions of this haunting family history—revealing cultural contexts of colorism, misogynoir, and white supremacy. This extraordinary and important book illustrates the ways in which anti-Black violence can be brutally whitewashed under the guise of institutional and bureaucratic complicity. At the same time, Every Hard Sweetness insists on celebrating Black courage, Black resilience, and Black joy in poems that are riveting, heartbreaking, and gorgeous.”
— Lee Ann Roripaugh, author of Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50
“Every Hard Sweetness is a fabulous combination of old school storytelling and vibrant hybrid experimentation. On one hand, Sheila Carter-Jones masterfully weaves poems out of genres of history, memoir, and folklore— even archival photographs and visual art act as poetry in this inventive collection. On the other hand, whatever the form, Carter-Jones weaves masterful stories from the mercurial feelings and rhythms of everyday experience. Every time I read this brilliant book some new mastery unfolds. Sheila Carter-Jones is simply a badass poet.”
— Terrance Hayes, author of Lighthead
“In Every Hard Sweetness, Sheila Carter-Jones refracts a personal story and larger history of America: her father’s unjust six-and-half-year incarceration in a mental hospital in the 1960s and her coming-of-age and coming to terms with the trauma of her family’s story is set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the ongoing struggle for freedom for Black Americans. Carter-Jones powerfully wields various forms, including photographs, to recover the past, resulting in a work that is a moving testament to the “art of staying alive.” In poem after poem, Carter-Jones counters erasure, fearlessly “filling the geography of silence.”
— Shara McCallum, author of No Ruined Stone
“What happens to the body and soul when your ‘blood’ is brutalized? In Every Hard Sweetness Sheila Carter-Jones witnesses the ‘goneness’ of the body as her father is enslaved, taken to the State Hospital for the Criminal Insane for the crime of being black. With stunning imagery and astonishing voice, she recovers memory, rescripts it, takes us through doors of unbearable cruelty: I make my body a wall. There is a gate to goneness that only Sheila Carter-Jones knows, the gate her father passed through, and with original form and movement she speaks it—the hard sweetness of survival, the animal nature of the state as it hunts a man because of his dark skin, the heartbreak of prices paid—years of courage and anger to ‘realign the stars.’ This book is unforgettable in its bravery, its truth-telling, its tragedy, its strength.”
— Jan Beatty, author of The Body Wars
Publication Date: 04/9/2024
© BOA Editions, Ltd. 2024