The Age of Phyllis

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a poet whose work examines culture, religion, history, and family. She is the author of four other books of poetry, including The Glory Gets, and the recipient of the 2018 Harper Lee Award for Literary Distinction, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress. An elected member of the American Antiquarian Society, she teaches creative writing at the University of Oklahoma where she is a professor of English.

Commendation Quotes:

“There are few historically consequential poets whose lives are rooted so deeply beneath the bloody red sea and the bloody red, white, and blue shores of America as that of Phillis Wheatley. The excavation and the telling of her complicated tremendous life, that has everything to do with how we have come to know each other, eye to eye, in this 21st century, would take a lifetime of research and the courageous delicate use of every light-filled exacting tool a poet could hold in her hand. The work of a lifetime is exactly what Honoree Jeffers, poet extraordinaire of her time, has accomplished in The Age of Phillis, a poetry book that gentles to the page the life and times of Phillis Wheatley, America’s first published Black woman poet. It is a book teeming and timeless with the long-overlooked, the sparkling unknown, the ancillary biographical, the nuanced historical, the mighty minutiae, and the critical antidotal. We need this Genius Child reader in our open hands right now.”–Nikky Finney, author of Head Off & Split: Poems 

“With passion and epic precision, Honorée Jeffers renders Phillis Wheatley’s unprecedented predicament and genius in rich and kaleidoscopic fashion. It was Phillis Wheatley’s task, as both poet and American slave, to limn the dream of freedom and to move toward it with her whole being. While remaining alive to the racial labyrinths and justice-cries of the present, Jeffers reminds us that our enslaved ancestors continue to speak to us and through us. This masterful book is a fountain of spirited dedication and lucid reclamation, and contemporary American poetry is richer for it.”–Cyrus Cassells, author of The Gospel according to Wild Indigo 

“Jeffers delivers history with a gut-punch in her sweeping overview of the late eighteenth century, the Atlantic slave trade, and the life of Phillis Wheatley. Empathy, deep research, and a keen intellect expand every poem. Diamond-faceted, Jeffers’ poems go beyond mere facts and drive the imagination into searing truth.”–Janice. N. Harrington, author of Primitive: The Art and Life of Horace H. Pippin 

“We have worried about Phillis for so long. Pitied her. Puzzled over her. But only Honorée Jeffers had the wisdom, patience, and power to go get her, to put the girl-poet-woman between her knees, comb out the knots, and anoint her head with pain and glory. The Age of Phillis is the finest work on early African-American life I’ve ever read. More than that, it is a bold rewriting and righting of American history as a story of little girls stolen and grown women determined to gather them in to homes made of out of words, love, loss, beauty, courage, and cunning. This is a book to be taught, studied, held, absorbed, and treasured.”–Joanna Brooks, PhD, award-winning author or editor of ten books on American race, religion, and colonialism, including American Lazarusand Why We Left

Review Quotes:

“With her latest volume, award-winning poet Jeffers presents an arresting and meticulously researched collection of poems imagining the life of remarkable life and revolutionary work of Phillis Wheatley.”–Karla Strand, Ms. magazine


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