t’ai freedom ford
t’ai freedom ford is a New York City high school English teacher and Cave Canem Fellow. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in The African American Review, Apogee, Bomb Magazine, Calyx, Drunken Boat, Electric Literature, Gulf Coast, Kweli, Tin House, Obsidian, Poetry and others. Her work has also been featured in several anthologies including The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop and Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color. In 2012 and 2013, she completed two multi-city tours as a part of a queer women of color literary salon, The Revival, which was the focus of a full length documentary by the same name. In 2014, she was the winner of The Feminist Wire’s inaugural poetry contest judged by Evie Shocklee. She was a 2015 Center for Fiction Fellow and the Poetry Project’s 2016 Emerge-Surface-Be Poetry fellow. Most recently she has won awards from the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) and is a 2019 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship inaugural fellow. Winner of the 2015 To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize, her first poetry collection, how to get over is available from Red Hen Press. Her second poetry collection, & more black, is with Augury Books, available Summer 2019. t’ai lives and loves in Brooklyn where she is an editor at No, Dear Magazine.
how to get over
t’ai freedom ford
Publication Date: May 4, 2017
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