The Study of Human Life (Penguin Poets) (Paperback)
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A third collection that reveals an acclaimed poet further extending his range into the realm of speculative fiction, while addressing issues as varied as abolition, Black ecological consciousness, and the boundless promise of parenthood
Across three sequences, Joshua Bennett’s new book recalls and reimagines social worlds almost but not entirely lost, all while gesturing toward the ones we are building even now, in the midst of a state of emergency, together. Bennett opens with a set of autobiographical poems that deal with themes of family, life, death, vulnerability, and the joys and dreams of youth. The central section, “The Book of Mycah,” features an alternate history where Malcolm X is resurrected from the dead, as is a young black man shot by the police some fifty years later in Brooklyn. The final section of The Study of Human Life are poems that Bennett has written about fatherhood, on the heels of his own first child being born last fall.
About the Author
Poet, performer, and scholar Joshua Bennett is the author of two collections of poetry, Owed and The Sobbing School, as well as a book of criticism, Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man. His first work of narrative nonfiction, Spoken Word: A Cultural History, is forthcoming from Knopf. He received his PhD in English from Princeton University, and is currently Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. His writing has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, Poetry, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. In 2021, he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Award in Poetry and Nonfiction. He lives in Boston.
Advance praise for The Study of Human Life:
“With a singularly expansive and compassionate view of history, Bennett sweeps across generations of joy, suffering, and connection.” —Lit Hub
Praise for Bennett's previous collection, Owed:
“Themes of praise and debt pervade this rhapsodic, rigorous poetry collection, which pays homage to everyday Black experience in the U.S. . . . Bennett conjures a spirit of kinship that, illuminated by redolent imagery, borders on mythic, and boldly stakes claim to ‘some living, future / English, & everyone in it / is immortal.’” —The New Yorker
“Bennett captures the beauty of what really matters in life—the memories, youth sports, family traditions and little moments that many of us take for granted . . . [Owed] couldn't have been more timely.” —Salon
“Not only are these poems eloquent but also lyrical, intelligent, and, occasionally, funny. Most reflect upon and communicate the pain, joy, and intensity of the current Black experience . . . In a time when many confront and protest the racism prevalent in our society, Bennett’s new book is vital.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“[Owed] intertwines the author’s multifaceted professions as poet, performer, and professor through powerful, crisp poems that celebrate the complexity, joy, and heartbreak of the Black experience in America . . . Bennett’s poems are more necessary than ever.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)