how to get over

An astonishing debut, how to get over is part instruction manual, part prayer, part testimony. It attempts to solve the reader’s problems (by telling them how to get over), while simultaneously creating them―troubling the waters with witness and blues. ford’s poems witness via a series of “past life portraits” that navigate personal space as well as the imagined persona. These portraits conjure the blues via the imagined lives of the inanimate (a whip, a machete), the historic (a Negro burial ground, Harriet Tubman, The Red Summer), the iconic (Pecola Breedlove, Richard Pryor, Rodney King). At the same time, these portraits focus on the past lives of the author and grapple with themes including sexuality, sexual abuse, and substance abuse.

The collection’s namesake poems speak to bullying and homophobia, blackness, whiteness and gentrification, and even directly address pop culture icons like Kanye West, Chaka Khan, and Nicky Minaj. Grounded in memory and re-memory, these poems pray in the voice of the ancestors and testify on their behalf. ford’s poems not only remind how the history and legacy of slavery placed African-Americans at an unfair disadvantage, but attempt to illuminate the beautiful struggle of a people’s endurance and resilience. The reader embarks upon a journey through these poems, circa 1787 to 2013, and emerges realizing that everything is connected―the ways we live, lie, love, and die―the ways we all get over.


“From the moment the poet declares that there’s a ‘plantation in them lungs,’ and sets the stage for a starkly ‘muscled music,’ you may as well let loose your rigid misconceptions about what poetry can do and steel yourself as it becomes the way your body moves from one exclamation to the other. Each of these lean and urgent poems, bulging with insistent energy and image, is a hallmark of t’ai freedom’s fierce inventiveness and refusal to settle for anything that lives its only life on the page. The fact that you aren’t ready for this work is exactly why you need it in your life.” ―Patricia Smith, author of Blood Dazzler, a finalist for the National Book Award

“t’ai freedom ford has written a Live/Lie/Love/Die survival guide for survivors of drug wars and hip hop fantasies; a gender-blurred bildungsroman built with the bone of poetry; a battalion of rhyme brilliantly etched across loss and discovery; a celebration of brown-skinned love and a boomboxed declaration of living filled with all the grit and spit it takes to make love last. This book has come just in time for all us who’ve been under the gun, under false pretense, under arrest, under the influence, and burying our hearts underground. Here we have a Harriet Tubman of a tome with a mission to deliver us from ourselves and unto ourselves, to teach us simply and profoundly how to get over.” ―Tyehimba Jess, author of leadbelly

A design of a dark woman with a warp on her head and a third eye drawn on her forehead with script at the top that reads How to Get Over poems by T’ai Freedom Ford.

t’ai freedom ford ( Author Website )

Publication Date: May 4, 2017

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

$17.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-59709-038-4

Download the Press Kit Here


Review of how to get over by t’ai freedom ford

“how to get over is an instruction manual for the hopeless navigating uncomfortable personal spaces where the need to transform begins.” HOW TO GET OVER has been reviewed by The Blueshift […]


Huge thanks to Rain Taxi for this fantastic review of t’ai freedom ford’s HOW TO GET OVER, calling it “a courageous and brilliant book… [that] interweaves personal life and American […]

Lambda Literary Reviews “how to get over”

“ford’s evocative poems traverse time, gender, ancestry, and love. Each slender poem cuts with precision, packing a tremendous amount of power into a slim volume.” t’ai freedom ford’s “how to […]