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erica lewis


mahogany is about the passing of time and unimaginable loss, strength, humor, and love

mahogany takes its name from the dark wood prized for its durability, workability, and elegant look, and from the Diana Ross movie, whose theme song asks if what lies ahead is what you really want. This book is the third in a trilogy, and like the first two books it is steeped in pop music. Each poem here takes its title from a line of a Diana Ross and The Supremes song, as well as songs from Diana Ross' solo career. Short lines flow down the page like postmodern psalms, connecting dailyness to timelessness, merging the historical and the beloved through reverence for family, music, and the life we actually live. mahogany is a lament for the passing of time and unimaginable loss, and at the same time it models the daily search for joy, and the deep shine that can arise from the darkest times.

[sample poem]

i'm like a woman who once knew splendor*

sometimes i feel like the pink panther
all naked and pink
lost in the morass of
do the best you can today
and nigga heal thy self
our end of winter
spirits break
like old tibetan snow
i remember
you was conflicted
and i found myself alone
here on my ancient hurt
the disquieting hum
of living history
dear god, please
put my head above my heart
we can only be together
if the stories are told
plain face
same instrument
just a couple of coke bottles
full of gasoline
like god and rain
is a waste of time
my mother used to clean houses
as a child
some days i can barely
get out of bed
in my mind
she's like diana ross
scrubbing the white lady's stairs
in lady sings the blues
except prettier
and with green eyes
i've just been living
off of cough drops
and water and anger
just sitting in the whole foods
parking lot eating pineapple
i am literally
the definition of "hot mess"
pain changes everything
somebody come
and pick up
my limp body
off the ground
i am dying
a slow ohio death
we miss you starman
it's our first sunrise of the burn

* "dark side of the world"erica lewis


erica lewis (San Francisco, CA) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her books include the precipice of jupiter (2009, with artist Mark Stephen Finein), camera obscura (2010, with artist Mark Stephen Finein), murmur in the inventory (2013); and the first two books of the box set trilogy: daryl hall is my boyfriend (2015) and mary wants to be a superwoman (2017).


"To read mahogany is to st/roll with a new friend. The poems are as much tirade as they are tender telling, as much lyric blitz as spoken invitations to a way of surviving..." -- Divya Victor, author of Curb

"erica lewis melds the raw emotions of love, loss, death, anxiety, and joy into a solid tribute to black endurance, her daily life and the heart of her history. Her dynamic phrasing riffs on her experiences like a praise song." -- Lyn Ford, storyteller, poet, writer/Ohio Arts Council and the National Association of Black Storytellers

"In the tight-lined poems of mahogany, the repetitiveness of longing cycles into the brave insights of despair. After all, 'what is grief' one poem notes, 'if not preserving/love.' Like the Diana Ross's songs through which the poet refracts her own story, intense grief and love turn these poems 'inside out' until, sometimes, 'all that's left is joy'." -- Camille T. Dungy, author of Trophic Cascade

[H]  Wesleyan University Press  /  September 05, 2023

 0.7" H x 9.4" L x 6.3" W (0.75 lbs) 128 pages

[P]  Wesleyan University Press  /  September 05, 2023

0.34" H x 8.99" L x 6.12" W (0.49 lbs) 128 pages