The Sobbing School

Selected by Eugene Gloria
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Paperback
$20.00 US
5.48"W x 8.37"H x 0.25"D  
On sale Sep 27, 2016 | 96 Pages | 978-0-14-311186-3
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
The debut collection from a 2021 Whiting Award and Guggenheim Fellow recipient whose “astounding, dolorous, rejoicing voice is indispensable” (Tracy K. Smith)
  

The Sobbing School, Joshua Bennett’s mesmerizing debut collection of poetry, presents songs for the living and the dead that destabilize and de-familiarize representations of black history and contemporary black experience. What animates these poems is a desire to assert life, and interiority, where there is said to be none. Figures as widely divergent as Bobby Brown, Martin Heidegger, and the 19th-century performance artist Henry Box Brown, as well as Bennett’s own family and childhood best friends, appear and are placed in conversation in order to show that there is always a world beyond what we are socialized to see value in, always alternative ways of thinking about relation that explode easy binaries.
© Rog Walker
Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016), which was a National Poetry Series selection and a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He is also the author of Being Property Once Myself (Harvard University Press, 2020), Owed (Penguin, 2020), The Study of Human Life (Penguin, 2022), and Spoken Word: A Cultural History (Knopf, 2023). He has received fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. He is a Professor of Literature and Distinguished Chair of the Humanities at MIT. View titles by Joshua Bennett
Praise for The Sobbing School:
 
“In his scintillating debut, Bennett raises a crucial question about the writing of African-American experience:  how can one convey the enormity of black suffering without reducing black life and expression to elegy? . . . At its heart, Bennett’s sharp collection is an ode to family, friendship and culture that neither pulls punches nor withholds sentiment.”
Publishers Weekly

 
“Bennett is one of the most impressive voices in poetry today. . .he is also quietly building a reputation as one the brightest intellectual and political thinkers of a new generation.”
– Jesse McCarthy, Dissent Magazine

“'Who can be alive today/and not study grief,’ Joshua Bennett asks in this arresting debut. Yet these poems are no study in grief. Abounding in tenderness and rich with character, these are no quaint lyrics. They leap into our lives, engaging, crackling with wit and intelligence. It’s one of Bennett’s unique gifts—a virtuosic kind of code switching—to deliver a civil tone of I’d rather you didn’t, while we know what he means is, more provocatively, I wish you would.”
– Gregory Pardlo 
 
"At a moment in American culture punctuated to a heartbreaking degree by acts of hatred, violence and disregard, I can think of nothing we need to ponder and to sing of more than our shared grief and our capacity not just for empathy but genuine love. Poetry is critical to such an endeavor—and Joshua Bennett’s astounding, dolorous, rejoicing voice is indispensable."
– Tracy K. Smith

"At the heart of Joshua Bennett’s debut collection lies grief, but his poems also pay tribute to the human will to endure. There are glimpses here of James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston where Bennett’s syntactical dexterity and feeling for language meet the rhythm and flow of dangerous music. His poems of identity are also poems of imagery and invention, and they testify to poetry’s endless mutability through story and song, lament and praise. The Sobbing School is an essential book for our times."
—Eugene Gloria

About

The debut collection from a 2021 Whiting Award and Guggenheim Fellow recipient whose “astounding, dolorous, rejoicing voice is indispensable” (Tracy K. Smith)
  

The Sobbing School, Joshua Bennett’s mesmerizing debut collection of poetry, presents songs for the living and the dead that destabilize and de-familiarize representations of black history and contemporary black experience. What animates these poems is a desire to assert life, and interiority, where there is said to be none. Figures as widely divergent as Bobby Brown, Martin Heidegger, and the 19th-century performance artist Henry Box Brown, as well as Bennett’s own family and childhood best friends, appear and are placed in conversation in order to show that there is always a world beyond what we are socialized to see value in, always alternative ways of thinking about relation that explode easy binaries.

Author

© Rog Walker
Joshua Bennett is the author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016), which was a National Poetry Series selection and a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He is also the author of Being Property Once Myself (Harvard University Press, 2020), Owed (Penguin, 2020), The Study of Human Life (Penguin, 2022), and Spoken Word: A Cultural History (Knopf, 2023). He has received fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. He is a Professor of Literature and Distinguished Chair of the Humanities at MIT. View titles by Joshua Bennett

Praise

Praise for The Sobbing School:
 
“In his scintillating debut, Bennett raises a crucial question about the writing of African-American experience:  how can one convey the enormity of black suffering without reducing black life and expression to elegy? . . . At its heart, Bennett’s sharp collection is an ode to family, friendship and culture that neither pulls punches nor withholds sentiment.”
Publishers Weekly

 
“Bennett is one of the most impressive voices in poetry today. . .he is also quietly building a reputation as one the brightest intellectual and political thinkers of a new generation.”
– Jesse McCarthy, Dissent Magazine

“'Who can be alive today/and not study grief,’ Joshua Bennett asks in this arresting debut. Yet these poems are no study in grief. Abounding in tenderness and rich with character, these are no quaint lyrics. They leap into our lives, engaging, crackling with wit and intelligence. It’s one of Bennett’s unique gifts—a virtuosic kind of code switching—to deliver a civil tone of I’d rather you didn’t, while we know what he means is, more provocatively, I wish you would.”
– Gregory Pardlo 
 
"At a moment in American culture punctuated to a heartbreaking degree by acts of hatred, violence and disregard, I can think of nothing we need to ponder and to sing of more than our shared grief and our capacity not just for empathy but genuine love. Poetry is critical to such an endeavor—and Joshua Bennett’s astounding, dolorous, rejoicing voice is indispensable."
– Tracy K. Smith

"At the heart of Joshua Bennett’s debut collection lies grief, but his poems also pay tribute to the human will to endure. There are glimpses here of James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston where Bennett’s syntactical dexterity and feeling for language meet the rhythm and flow of dangerous music. His poems of identity are also poems of imagery and invention, and they testify to poetry’s endless mutability through story and song, lament and praise. The Sobbing School is an essential book for our times."
—Eugene Gloria

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