“francine j. harris’s poems are tenderized: they not only insist upon their embodiment, they punch, howl, beat, and bleed their way into being.”
Boston Review
“…The poems in [play dead] provide scrappy, cunning, and inventive methods of survival.”
Drunken Boat
“This book talks smack. This book chews with its open mouth full of the juiciest words, the most indigestible images. This book undoes me. In play dead, francine j. harris brilliantly ransacks the poet’s toolkit, assembling art from buckets of disaster and shreds of hope. Nothing she lays her mind’s eye on escapes. You, too, will be captured by her work.”
—Evie Shockley
“I mean, beautiful is part of it—woundingly, shreddingly, frighteningly beautiful. But it’s more than that. I feel like these are poems that crowbar open the sealed-up worlds of our hurt and let some light in. And that’s only part of it too. What francine j. harris does with language—diction, syntax, the line, the image—is unlike almost anything I know. I’m saying, they re-imagine and re-deploy language in an almost unspeakable way. I read these poems with my eyes and brain, I’m saying, but I read them with my heart and my gut, too. With my neck and the stuff between my vertebrae. My fingernails. I think you have to. I read these poems not knowing they were possible, I’m saying. Thinking stuff like my god. Do you know what I’m saying?”
—Ross Gay
“Whatever francine j. harris is writing about—whether her mother or Detroit, sex or addiction—I love the vitality of her language, the sense of joy and tumble inherent to her poems. Her mind has a figurative ease akin to drawing breath, a way of seeing that is unmistakably hers. She reminds me that, in trying to perceive the world anew, all poets are attempting to praise, to show us the worth of life as it is, or as it could be. This is an exciting book by a dynamic and insightful poet.”
—Bob Hicok
“[harris uses] her long lists and quick cuts to portray a young woman in flight from herself; at the same time, her figurative language can rise into confidence, showing exactly how and why ‘[s]he wants to set the house ablaze.’”
Academy of American Poets
“harris’s visual kinesis can be so intensely acrobatic and explosive, reading her can makes me rethink just how and why for thousands of years we have linked poetry to the body.”
Adam Fitzgerald, Lit Hub
“. . . harris risks all with a collection that’s raw and punchy as a street fight. . . . Portrayed in searing, relentless language, the world here is an edgy and dangerous place, where families are splintered, sex and violence grind against each other, and ‘nothing is safe./ any corner could be a cement truck. or a gun.
—Library Journal
“. . . play dead challenges us in the way that only the most daring poetry can.”
—Michigan Radio, NPR

poems by francine j. harris

Paper - 9780814336182   
Price: $15.95t
Available February 2012
Size: 6.5 x 8, Pages: 112

Series: Made in Michigan Writers Series

The full-length debut from francine j. harris, allegiance is about Detroit, sort of. Although many of the poems are inspired by and dwell in the spaces of the city, this collection does not revel in any of the cliché cultural tropes normally associated with Detroit. Instead, these poems artfully explore life in a city where order coexists with chaos and much is lost in social and physical breakdown. Narrative poems on the hazards, betrayals, and annoyances of city life mix with impressionistic poems that evoke the natural world, as harris grapples with issues of beauty and horror, loyalty and individuality, and memory and loss on Detroit’s complicated canvas.

In twelve sections, harris introduces readers to loungers and bystanders, prisoners’ wives, poets pictured on book jackets, Caravaggio’s Jesus, and city priests. She leads readers past the lone house on the block that cannot be walked down, through layers of discarded objects in the high school yard, and into various classrooms, bars, and living rooms. Shorter poems highlight the persistence of nature—in water, weeds, orchids, begonias, insects, pigeons, and pheasants. Some poems convey a sense of the underbelly, desire, and disgust while others treat issues of religion, both in institutional settings and personal prayers. In her honest but unsentimental voice, harris layers personal history and rich details to explore how our surroundings shape our selves and what allegiance we owe them when they have turn almost everything to ashes.

Throughout allegiance, harris presents herself as an extraordinarily perceptive poet with a compelling and original voice. Poetry lovers will appreciate this exciting debut collection.
Published by Wayne State University Press

Advanced praise for "allegiance"

“In her debut collection, allegiance, francine j. harris makes an instrument of each poem. Somehow both surgical and blunt, the poems sing."
—Gregory Pardlo

"There is an odd lyric telegraphing here just in the way strobe lighting carries movement, or serial narrative, in the dark. These are tropes of knowledge in a time of great ignorance. This is a wonderful book of poems.”
—Norman Dubie

“The poems in allegiance explore the intersection of terror and tenderness in imagery and music so original that there is a gasp of surprise/pleasure/recognition. . . . There is not a forgettable poem on any of these pages.”
—Laura Kasischke

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