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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.


Poet, performer, and scholar Joshua Bennett is the author of two collections of poetry, Owed and The Sobbing School, as well as a book of criticism, Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man. His first work of narrative nonfiction, Spoken Word: A Cultural History, is forthcoming from Knopf. He received his PhD in English from Princeton University, and is currently Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. His writing has been published in The New York Times MagazineThe Paris ReviewPoetry, and elsewhere. In 2021, he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Whiting Award in Poetry and Nonfiction. He lives in Boston.


  • Publisher: ‎Penguin Books (September 27, 2016)
  • Language: ‎English
  • Paperback: ‎96 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎0143111868
  • ISBN-13: ‎9780143111863
  • Item Weight: ‎4.4 ounces
  • Dimensions: ‎5.48 x 0.25 x 8.37 inches
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