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Punks by John Keene

Punks by John Keene

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Winner of the National Book Award for Poetry 2022

Winner of the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry 2022

Winner of Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry 2022


landmark collection of poetry by acclaimed fiction writer, translator, and MacArthur Fellow John Keene, Punks: New & Selected Poems is a generous treasury in seven sections that spans decades and includes previously unpublished and brand new work. With depth and breadth, Punks weaves together historic narratives of loss, lust, and love. The many voices that emerge in these poems—from historic Black personalities, both familial and famous, to the poet's friends and lovers in gay bars and bedrooms—form a cast of characters capable of addressing desire, oppression, AIDS, and grief through sorrowful songs that "we sing as hard as we live." At home in countless poetic forms, Punks reconfirms John Keene as one of the most important voices in contemporary poetry.


Wow. Get Punks. Loads of ritual and performative lyric here, essential stuff. Histories, his brain ranges through the past impossibly, like an elegant thrift. I bow my head to Boston as it passes along the edges here of its demi-monde, then wrenching prose poems that are pretty much explorations of radiant metonymies of someone being black and queer like only John Keene is. This is one rich and thorough (I say pithy) fucking book.     -Eileen Myles

John Keene's Punks is utterly brilliant. The range, vision, depth and humanity he brings to the page are as galactic as Banneker’s astral wanderings, as crisp as the chordal cutting of a searching horn, as courageous and small as a nose wide open. Keene’s masterfully inventive inquiry of self and history is queered, Blackened, and joyously thick with multitudes of voice and valence. Amen to this exploration! -Tyehimba Jess

Punks by John Keene is the gayest, most reverent homosexual book of poems I have read in decades. It drips with ecstatic faggoty desire, sings a uniquely black love, and invokes Marlon Riggs’ contention that “every time we kiss, we confirm the new world coming.”  With a deftness I can only describe as masterful, these poems attend to “that vibrating inner field” of eros and the rapture of effervescence. You will be transported. It’s a brutal world out there. You need this attention to Keene’s poetic oeuvre where you’ll find a tenderness in both craft and content that will make your reading mind wet AF. Punks is a must read by any standards. It will make you want to fall in love with everything, including yourself. -Dawn Lundy Martin


John Keene is a writer, translator, professor, and artist who was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2018. In 1989, Keene joined the Dark Room Writers Collective, and is a Graduate Fellow of the Cave Canem Writers Workshops. He is the author of Annotations, and Counternarratives, both published by New Directions, as well as several other works, including the poetry collection Seismosis, with artist Christopher Stackhouse, and a translation of Brazilian author Hilda Hilst’s novel Letters from a Seducer. Keene is the recipient of many awards and fellowships—including the Windham-Campbell Prize, the Whiting Foundation Prize, the Republic of Consciousness Prize, and the American Book Award. He teaches at Rutgers University-Newark.


Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Harper's Magazine

Entropy: Best of 2021

Poetry Foundation

The Brooklyn Rail

The White Review's Best Books of 2021


Bookworm interview

Poetry Foundation


The Nation

The Poetry Project

North of Oxford

Brooklyn Rail


Brooklyn Rail, with Akil Kumarasamy

Chicago Review

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