Heaven Is All Goodbyes: The Poetry of Tongo Eisen-Martin, Zoom event: 6pm, Wednesday, 14th October

Image credit: ‘Heaven is All Goodbyes’, Tongo Eisen-Martin. Published by City Lights Publishers

Heaven Is All Goodbyes: The Poetry of Tongo Eisen-Martin

6pm, Wednesday, 14th October
In the words of Ben Lerner, Tongo Eisen-Martin’s poems are echo chambers of vernaculars and unofficial languages. He both registers the damage caused by systemic racism and evinces—and by his work extends—the rich modes of resistance that rise up to meet it. His is a poetry of total commitment that never becomes merely programmatic and instead stretches the possibilities of meaning to the far edge of sense, where they become music. “I wake up on a battlefield and also looking down from the crystal of a wind chime”: Eisen-Martin writes at once out of practical struggle and a sense of wonder, insisting by his example that one demands the other. A longtime political organizer, including against mass incarceration, he can pithily capture the inhumanity of the capitalist present: “I can hear hate / And teach hate / And call tools by people names / And name people dead to themselves.” But simply naming alienation will not suffice; this poet refuses to be dead to himself. He will not surrender his imagination to the logic he opposes: “I have to fall in love in here too, you know.” Like few other contemporary writers, Eisen-Martin can “play the piano against itself”—wrest from a thoroughly commercialized and militarized language new chords, new possibilities of musical and social combination. His work pays homage to a constellation of influential predecessors—Audre Lorde, Gil Scott-­­­Heron, Roque Dalton—but he sounds like no one else. I am grateful for the openness and outrage of these poems. As he writes, “It’s not the type of season for backing down.”
Originally from San Francisco, Tongo Eisen-Martin is a poet, movement worker, and educator. His latest curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, We Charge Genocide Again, has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country. His book titled, “Someone’s Dead Already” was nominated for a California Book Award. His latest book “Heaven Is All Goodbyes” was published by the City Lights Pocket Poets series, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and won a California Book Award and an American Book Award
For information on how to register: https://www.english.cam.ac.uk/seminars/TheoryCC.htm