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Black Wings and Blind Angels: Poems

Black Wings and Blind Angels: Poems

4.3 3
by Sapphire

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With fierce candor and an unflinching eye, the highly praised author of Push journeys through the harsh realities of African American existence to find the "door to the possibility of now." The heroes that emerge from these forty-seven vigorous poems confront the agony of betrayal as they strive in their quest for self-transformation and redemption


With fierce candor and an unflinching eye, the highly praised author of Push journeys through the harsh realities of African American existence to find the "door to the possibility of now." The heroes that emerge from these forty-seven vigorous poems confront the agony of betrayal as they strive in their quest for self-transformation and redemption.

From the city streets to the rich landscape of dreams, each of these poems holds out the "black wings of expectation" offering the chance to emerge from the pain of the past and arrive at "the day you have been waiting for/when you would finally begin to live." At turns alarming and inspiring, the raw lyrics and piercing wisdom of Black Wings & Blind Angels remind us of Sapphire's place as a unique and fearless voice.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Few literary works today are as affecting as [Sapphire's] or have had as much impact on our society." —Poets and Writers

"An enrapturing voice that charms and shocks." —The Miami Herald

"In Black Wings and Blind Angels, Sapphire hammers home pain until it is the shape of hope. . . . It is a must for poetry fans." —The Advocate

"[Sapphire's] characteristic intensity mixes with classical as well as experimental forms, excavating dreams, memory, and history to address a multitude of topics." —The Village Voice Literary Supplement

Poet, performance artist, and author of the acclaimed novel Push, Sapphire returns with a new collection of poems that takes the reader into America's past and present, bearing testimony to the black experience in a country fragmented by war, racism, and urban and domestic violence. In Black Wings & Blind Angels Sapphire explores a wide range of provocative subjects, from the origins of celebrity and desire to lesbian separatism to childhood sexual abuse to the "justified genocide" of American Indians. In addition, "Breaking Karma (Nos. 5 through 9)" continues the sequence begun in her first book of poetry, American Dreams, and the "Gorilla in the Midst" poems, satiric vignettes that began as a meditation on the infamous racism of the Los Angeles Police Department, confront "sexual stereotypes, issues of power, and racism."
Richard Tayson
In Black Wings & Blind Angels Sapphire hammers pain until it is the shape of hope. Her poetic voice is evolving, but Sapphire is still on target. It is a must for poetry fans.
The Advocate
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
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. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.37(d)

Read an Excerpt

Breaking Karma #5


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."


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—"

Meet the Author

Sapphire is the author of American Dreams, a collection of poetry which was cited by Publishers Weekly as, "One of the strongest debut collections of the nineties." Push, her novel, 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, in Great Britain, the Mind Book of the Year Award. Push was named by the Village Voice and Time Out New York as one of the top ten books of 1996. Push was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction. About her most recent book of poetry Poet's and Writer's Magazine wrote, "With her soul on the line in each verse, her latest collection, Black Wings & Blind Angels, retains Sapphire's incendiary power to win hearts and singe minds."
Sapphire's 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 February of 2007 Arizona State University presented PUSHing Boundaries, PUSHing Art: A Symposium on the Works of Sapphire. Sapphire's work has been translated into eleven languages and has been adapted for stage in the United States and Europe. Precious, the film adaption of her novel, recently won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance (2009).

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Black Wings and Blind Angels 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I stumbled accross this one by accident, the title grabbed me. The prose flows, suggests stories upon stories without telling them...while you are led to feel a mix of human emotions as you read. Rhythym, message and power...good poetic style. In some ways it reminds me of Gwendolyn Brooks's writings.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sapphire took everyday life situations to another level. I truly enjoyed the luminous poetry in Black Wings & Blind Angels. Sapphire has a gift with saying it the way it is. Although I had to read some of the writings twice, my favorite clarity was 'My Father Meets God' pp 86. When a writer writes about life experience's as Sapphire has done it goes to a higher level, a level of healing. Through Sapphires writing she reachs out and heals many.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is a true triumph for Sapphire. Especially poignant after reading 'American Dreams', her final forgiveness of her father and her impeccable child like memory of her fears and sorrows mix together beautifully in her sparse but fresh prose.