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Carmen Gillespie



Carmen Gillespie is a professor of English and director and founder of the Griot Institute for Africana Studies at Bucknell University. In addition to scholarly articles and poem publications, she is author of the literary critical works, A Critical Companion to Toni Morrison (2007), A Critical Companion to Alice Walker (2011), and the editor of Toni Morrison: Forty Years in the Clearing (2012). Carmen has published a poetry chapbook, Lining the Rails (2008) and three poetry collections, Jonestown: A Vexation, which won the 2011 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Prize; The Blue Black Wet of Wood (2016), the winner of Two Sylvia's Wilder Series Poetry Prize, and The Ghosts of Monticello: A Recitatif (2017), winner of the 2016 Stillhouse Press Prize for Poetry. The Ghosts of Monticello: A Recitatif was a nominee for the 2018 Library of Virginia Poetry Award. Carmen's awards include an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship for Excellence in Poetry and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and has served as a Fulbright scholar. Essence magazine named Carmen one of its 40 favorite poets.


the inconstant moon

“Officer Slager pleaded guilty to violating Walter Scott’s civil rights by unjustly shooting him in the back five times as he was running away from a traffic stop.” AP News


“I could stand in the Middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States


We are living for the histories of the moon,

of the man in the moon,

and of the men in the moon shots

shots, shot, shot

their shots leaving orbit to eviscerate

backs, black flesh running away

backs black and red

back then and now,

backing into the moment(s)—in or out—

in a room with no room for them, no

sanctuary of petals, no orchid yelling in curves

trying to remind us of the fundamental

female of life

and of the innocence of water,

its walls weeping

with structures that exist only

in the space of what is missing,

shifts of the moon

and what might have been—


we shoot into is

and stroke its shot

through the heart of what was