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Mess and Mess and

by Douglas Kearney



About the Author

Douglas Kearney’s Patter (Red Hen Press, 2014) was a finalist for the California Book Award in Poetry. The Black Automaton (Fence Books, 2009) was a National Poetry Series selection. A collection of his libretti is forthcoming (SubitoPress 2015). He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award and residencies/fellowships including Cave Canem and The Rauschenberg Foundation. His work has appeared in PoetrynocturnesIowa ReviewBoston ReviewWhat I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in AmericaBest American Poetry, and Best American Experimental Writing. Raised in Altadena, CA, he lives with his family in Santa Clarita. He teaches at CalArts.

Mess and Mess and


The joy in reading Mess and Mess and comes from the way Douglas Kearney’s writing performs and transforms the sensations of the historic, imagined and real black body into a kind of jive signification system of pun, gesture and resistance through time, space, etymology, gloss. Jive meaning: some mess, some movements, some secrets glyphed behind the hand, continually decoding and decoying the code. “Here, the body shifts to its proxy, language,” as Kearney creates his own methods for naming and theorizing not just creative process but the experience of art and utterance as a relationship with the various phenomena of living, dying and getting free. Evoking the heady erotics of Nathaniel Mackey and the critical interventions of Adrian Piper, Douglas Kearney’s meticulous and playful ars poetica illustrates the unseen dimensions of what makes his work necessarily graphic, totally vulnerable and admirably outrageous.

Tisa Bryant

Now and then, in Altadena, Arkansas and elsewhere, mess is a unit of measure, enough of something to feed anyone that needs to be fed. It’s in this regard that measure is poetry—how we sustain and share, in sound and flavor, our capacity to make a living, to live beyond our means, which they keep on trying to keep all for themselves. What you’re holding in your hands bears all of that. Shit is hard and terrible, and what you’re holding in your hands, which is most definitely the shit, bears all of that, too. Humans have made a mess of things and nothing but swarm, sheen, shimmy, stagger and stutter is gonna get us in deep enough to get us out of it. An old-new analexical word search and blackword research project, an anamessianic mess for the end of time that no one can tell us how to use, Mess and Mess and is Miss Ann’s apocalypse, Amos ‘n’ Andy’s undermanumission, Douglas Kearney’s antimassapiece.

Fred Moten

This book is a Mess. It’s a theory of Black cultural production that does its work by refusing to be straight(ened) up. It’s Doug doing his do(o). Dig it. Like a mess of greens, this Mess is gritty to start with, but you know it’s going to be goooood. Dig in. It won’t read itself—but it might read you.

Evie Shockley