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Book Launch: Against Heaven by Kemi Alabi

Please join us in celebrating the release of Against Heaven by Kemi Alabi! For this poetry reading and conversation, Alabi will be joined by Aricka ForemanBenji Hart & E. Hughes. This virtual event will take place on our Crowdcast channel. Please register at the link below. 



Against Heaven activates multiple lexicons, seeking to construct the immensity of black queer subjectivity with guile and formal virtuosity. At once sonic and disruptive, these poems pull together everything in a world where nothing is sacred.”Claudia Rankine, judge’s statement for the Academy of American Poets First Book Award

Kemi Alabi’s transcendent debut reimagines the poetic and cultural traditions from which it is born, troubling the waters of some of our country’s central and ordained fictions—those mythic politics of respectability, resilience, and redemption. Instead of turning to a salvation that has been forced upon them, Alabi turns to the body and the earth as sites of paradise defined by the pleasure and possibility of Black, queer fugitivity. Through tender love poems, righteous prayers, and vital provocations, we see the colonizers we carry within ourselves being laid to rest.

Against Heaven is a praise song made for the flames of a burning empire—a freedom dream that shapeshifts into boundless multiplicities for the wounds made in the name of White supremacy and its gods. Alabi has written an astonishing collection of magnificent range, commanding the full spectrum of the Black, queer spirit’s capacity for magic, love, and ferocity in service of healing—the highest power there is.


Kemi Alabi is the author of AGAINST HEAVEN (Graywolf Press, 2022), selected by Claudia Rankine as winner of the 2021 Academy of American Poets First Book Award. Their poems and essays appear in the Atlantic, Poetry, Boston Review, Catapult, Guernica, them., the BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2, Best New Poets 2019, and elsewhere. Selected by Chen Chen as winner of the 2020 Beacon Street Poetry Prize, Kemi has received Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Brittle Paper Award nominations along with support from MacDowell, Civitella Ranieri, Tin House and Pink Door.

Aricka Foreman is an American poet and interdisciplinary writer from Detroit MI. Author of the chapbook Dream with a Glass Chamber, and Salt Body Shimmer (YesYes Books), she has earned fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She serves on the Board of Directors for The Offing, and spends her time in Chicago, IL engaging poetry with photography & video.

Benji Hart is a Chicago-based author, artist, and educator whose work centers Black radicalism, queer liberation, and prison abolition. Their words have appeared in numerous anthologies, and been published at Teen VogueTimeThe Advocate, and elsewhere. They have led workshops for organizations and at academic institutions internationally, and facilitated convenings for groups like Law For Black Lives, National Bail Out, and Project NIA. Their performances have been featured at such venues as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2021); Den Frie, Copenhagen (2021); Museo del Chopo, Mexico City (2020); and the Amsterdam University of the Arts, Amsterdam (2019). They have been a fellow with the Rauschenberg Foundation, MacDowell, and are a 3Arts awardee in the Teaching Arts.

E. Hughes received her MFA+MA from the Litowitz Creative Writing Program at Northwestern University. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Guernica MagazinePoet LoreThe OffingWildness Magazine, Chicago Quarterly Review, and Protean Magazine—among others. She has been a finalist for the 2021 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize and longlisted for the Granum Fellowship Prize. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award. Hughes has been a participant in Tin House summer and winter workshops, the Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Foundation workshop as well as the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Her first manuscript of poems is titled Black Women Standing Ankle-Deep in Pacific Water. 

Please note: Our virtual events are recorded and viewable anytime on Women & Children First's Crowdcast Channel. The recordings are later uploaded with closed captioning to our YouTube Channel within a week or two of the event. 

Image Description: An evergreen banner with a faint leaf pattern background featuring a photo of the author Kemi Alabi and the book cover for Against Heaven. 

Event date: 
Tuesday, April 5, 2022 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Virtual Event on CrowdCast
Against Heaven: Poems By Kemi Alabi Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450826
Availability: On our shelves recently
Published: Graywolf Press - April 5th, 2022

Events Terms: