Cover image for Black wings & blind angels : poems
Black wings & blind angels : poems
Sapphire, 1950-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 129 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3569.A63 B58 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A book of electrifying poems by the acclaimed author ofPush("Brutal . . . redemptive"--Newsweek) andAmerican Dreams("Her insights are precise, terrifying, and ultimately hopeful. She sings in many voices, and every one of them cries out for justice" --Dorothy Allison). Alive with the emotional honesty and intellectual force for which Sapphire has been admired as both a writer and a performance artist, these forty-seven poems take us into America's past and present, bearing testimony to the black experience in a country fragmented by war, racism, and urban and domestic violence. They tell the story of a search for the complicated spiritual path back to one's roots, a story of family, race, and self-transformation. A provocative book that astonishes by the power of its language.

Author Notes

Sapphire was born Ramona Lofton in Fort Ord, California on August 4, 1950. She attended City College of New York and received her master's degree at Brooklyn College. Before starting her writing career, she worked as a performance artist and a teacher of reading and writing. Her works include the poetry collection American Dreams and the novel Push, which won the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane award for First Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association's First Novelist Award, and the Mind Book of the Year Award in Great Britain. Precious, the film adaption of her novel Push, won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance (2009). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Black Scholar, Spin, and Bomb. In 2009, she was the recipient of a Fellow Award in Literature from United States Artists.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sapphire became a semi-celebrity for the harsh poems of abuse and recovery in her first book, American Dreams; she then made waves for the huge advance on her novel Push. This second volume of verse finds her less aggressive, mixing her hostilities and anxieties with a newly bemused nostalgia. A long prose piece portrays God as a Samoan woman who greets Sapphire's abusive father in Heaven, explaining that he has been saved because he helped his daughter succeed: "You're dead Daddy and your girl she works for me, God." Where an older persona-poem had Sapphire speak with the voice of Tina Turner, a new one has her impersonating Michael Jackson, gloating, "I buy those old songs of John & Paul / & Ringo & sell 'em for dog food commercials. I am rich." The poet declares elsewhere "It is clear/ I was not cut out for bulldyking or prostitution now"; about a lover, she explains, "I am not four, his penis/ is not my father's. My father is dead, it's my life now." Among the free-verse persona poems Sapphire even strews a few sestinas. This isn't to say she's gone soft: as in Push, her compulsively consumable stories of trauma explore the far reaches of hell before coming up for air and angels. As if to remind us that she's still dangerous, one of the volume's central images is a so-called Indian wolf trap- a salt lick that hides a razor. These poems won't convert those who dislike Sapphire's work already, and they might alienate her fans; the undecided, however, may find more clarity here than in her earlier work, and thus more means for engagement. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Sapphire's brutally honest Push may have won the Black Caucus of the American Library Association's First Novelist award in 1997, but she is best known as a poet of slick-talking, nearly hallucinatory riffs on growing up poor, tough, and black in America. Spiky and uncompromising, her new poems promise more of the same. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Breaking Karma #5 i It is like a scene in a play. His bald spot shines upward between dark tufts of hair. We are sitting in a pool of light on the plastic covered couch, Ernestine, his last live-in, ended up with. But that is the end. We are sitting in the beginning of our lives now looking at our father upright in his black reclining chair. It's four of us then, children, new to Los Angeles--drugs, sex, Watts burning, Aretha, Michael Jackson, the murder of King, haven't happened yet. He is explaining how things will be-- Which one will cook, which one will clean. "Your mama," he announces, "is not coming." Two thousand miles away in the yellow linoleum light of her kitchen, my mother is sitting in the easy tan-colored man's lap. Kissing him. Her perfect legs golden like whiskey, his white shirt rolled up arms that surround her like the smell of cake baking. "Forget about her," my father's voice drops like a curtain, "she doesn't want you. She never did." ii Holding the photograph by its serrated edges, staring, I know the dark grey of her lips is "Jubilee Red" her face brown silk. I start with the slick corner of the photograph, put it in my mouth like it's pizza or something. I close my eyes, chew, swallow. "Breaking Karma #6" I'm in the movies now playing the part of the girl who broke my heart. My mouth, strobe-light pink, bounces off blue sequins. Behind me the Stones sing "Miss You," hollering, "There's some Puerto Rican girls around the corner just dying to meet chu." In the wings a white boy in a wheelchair moans, "Oh operator please get straight." SHE takes the stage now. Big yella gal. Daddy was a wop. Mama was a nigger. She's a singer. With a voice hot semi-liquid rock. Her heels are hills, cobalt blue melting like her dress into the firm breasts, fat hips & belly of Black Los Angeles. "Let's burn down the corn field," SHE wails. It's 1968. Tito, Michael, Randy & Cato are dancing down rows of rainbow colored corn when a voice comes over the loud speaker: There will be no ambulances tonight. "We'll make love, we'll make love while it burns," SHE screams like Howlin' Wolf, like Jay Hawkins, like Hank Williams, like Van Gogh's windmill, like the severed ear of black wind in a plate of pigtails & pink beans, like that bridge in Connecticut that collapsed under the center of air shaking like change in a cup. SHE stands like the big legs of a nuclear plant cracked at the base melting down a room full of $3/hr assembly line workers who hear her & shout, "Honey Hush!" & the crack in their mother's back becomes a sidewalk, then a road leading to a peach tree in "Georgy" or a pear tree in Florida. I'm eating popcorn & watching a Mexican dump a drunk paraplegic BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY in the desert his granddad rolled over a century ago killing for gold. At the side of the road an Okie girl, selling peanuts & semiprecious gems, hands me three pieces of black obsidian, called "Apache Tears," the Okie girl drawls, "'cause after the cavalry massacred their men, the Native women cried so hard their tears turned black, then to stone." Inside the theater the screen fills up with a fat half breed burning, gasoline in a blue dress. SHE picks up a microphone & in a book she hasn't read yet a white boy in a rented room puts his eyes out with lye. "I rather!" SHE shouts. "Tell it!" the audience shouts back. "Umm hmm," like the wind trapped in a slave castle SHE moans, "I rather go blind," the screen melts white drips down her face & disappears, "than see you--" Excerpted from Black Wings and Blind Angels: Poems by Sapphire All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.