I am so grateful to share that CRUSHED & CROWNED, my newest poetry collection, is available for pre-order from FlowerSong Press. I am thrilled that Edward Vidaurre, and the wonderful people at FlowerSong Press have accepted this book and will bring it out in the Fall of 2023. You can order it at the link above or here.
The poems in CRUSHED & CROWNED believe that if we live in the right spirit, the “crushed” of the world can end up “crowned.” As most of my readers know, I believe in the power of elegies, telling the stories of those who are gone, of those who suffer. These poems can offer a kind of resurrection, a kind of coming back to life. At least that is my hope.
Big thanks go to my friends, artists Orlando Pinder and Elijah N’Kai for their beautiful work on the cover art. I feel they capture the spirit of these poems in what they created.
This new collection opens with an elegy series remembering Echol Cole and Robert Walker, two sanitation workers in Memphis who were crushed in a truck in 1968. Their deaths sparked the I AM A MAN campaign in Memphis, which eventually brought Dr. King to that city in April, when he was assassinated. The book contains other elegies to Tamir Rice, Zella Ziona, Virgil Ware, and three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner who were killed in Mississippi in 1964.
CRUSHED & CROWNED then explores public art that also elegizes: a mural of St. Benedict the African in Palermo, Sicily, two DC murals by Aniekan Udofia, and a statue by Kehinde Wiley that now stands in Richmond, Virginia.
There is also a section of poems about my experience as a high school English teacher. These poems consider race in today’s high school classroom, teaching American Literature, the poetry of Langston Hughes, and working with LGBTQ students.
I am very glad this book contains a whole section of poems about the LGBTQ refugees in Block 13 of Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. These poems explore the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees, those who had to leave their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
CRUSHED & CROWNED also has a section of longer poems honoring the lives of American abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.
Finally, the book closes with a section of more personal poems exploring loss, love, and mortality.
I hope you might consider pre-ordering this book, perhaps teaching these poems in a class or reading them in your book group. I am glad to be in touch with you at JosephRoss20017@gmail.com.
Here is some advanced praise for CRUSHED & CROWNED:
“In this exquisite collection of poetry, Crushed & Crowned, Joseph Ross delivers a searing indictment of America’s unapologetic racialization of the black body. With a poetic voice that is both breathtaking and insightful, Ross masterfully weaves a tapestry of history that is as delicate as it is compassionate. In this museum of bodies, each poem is a work of art, painstakingly crafted to reveal the legacy of resilience that has characterized the black experience in America. Here is a world of vivid imagery and poignant details. Here is a world where memory is a lute contained within an elegant choir of beautiful lines. This is a book that will leave you both moved and mesmerized, a testament to the power of poetry to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.”
–Saddiq Dzukogi, author of Your Crib, My Qibla
“Some days, America is a jaw, /steel-toothed and filthy. So begins Joseph Ross’s exquisite new collection Crushed & Crowned. These poems ignite the page with their unflinching view of America’s complicated, often brutal racial past. The generousness of these elegiac poems, their need to be both treble and bass and all the notes in between, intersect at the point of history and survival. A voice for the voiceless, Ross never misses the opportunity to educate and uplift through clear-eyed language. This book celebrates, remembers, honors, and—most important—helps us bear what we witness.”
–January Gill O’Neil, author of Rewilding
“These are amazing Jeremiah poems, lamenting, excoriating, praying for America when it is “being its worst.” Not surprisingly, the first line of Ross’s first poem about Black sanitation workers in Memphis, crushed by a garbage truck because they “were not allowed to sit where humans sit,” is “Some days, America is a jaw.” In his signature short but powerful lines, with incredible imagery, Ross offers horrific biographies of African American martyrs slain where “there is too much white in the air” and where “skin has gone wrong.” The Delta has become “a blood bank and graveyard” but is crowned with Black bodies. There are also carefully crafted ekphrastic poems about murals in DC celebrating Black art, poems about revolutionary leaders such as Harriet Tubman who taught “running is religion” and a tour de force 16 -stanza obsequy about Frederick Douglass who “escaped and ran toward himself.” Everywhere, too, we hear Langston Hughes’s griot voice. Nor has global racial violence escaped Ross’s eye; there is a section of poems about the victimized LGBTQ residents of the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya being burned alive; they had to “listen for the melody of gasoline/sloshing around in Jerry cans.” Doubtless the most promising poems are those about Ross the teacher, educating his pupils about Black literature. Conscience wrenching, Crushed and Crowned is a major volume in Civil Rights poetry; it is mandatory reading for the health of the American soul.”
— Philip C. Kolin, Poet, Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus
Emeritus Editor The Southern Quarterly
University of Southern Mississippi