Tongo Eisen-Martin and Crystal Wilkinson

Rain Taxi celebrates Poets Laureate East and West!
Thursday, September 23, 5:30 pm, Central

Join us as the Poet Laureate of San Francisco, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and the Poet Laureate of Kentucky, Crystal Wilkinson, share poetry from their new releases and shed light on the important roles that poets can play in the civic life of their communities. The poets will be in conversation with Twin Cities poet Michael Kleber-Diggs.  

In Blood on the Fog (City Lights), Tongo Eisen-Martin explores themes of love and loss, family and faith, refracted through the lens of Black experience. These poems honor intellectual tradition and ancestral knowledge while blazing an entirely new path, recording and replaying the poet’s sensory travels through America, from its packed metropolises to desolate anytowns. Packed with politically astute and clear-eyed takes on race and class, and filled with wisdom and great humanity, these poems perform mind-bending leaps and wander down back alleys to arrive at their moment of ultimate truth.

In Perfect Black (University Press of Kentucky), Crystal Wilkinson combines deep love for her country roots with a passion for language and storytelling to craft a compelling collection about Black girlhood, racism, and political awareness. Imbued with tenderness and insightful imagery of growing up in the South, the poet muses on such topics as lost fathers, religion, motherhood, mental illness, sexual assault, and the politics of her Black body, all while evoking ghosts and ancestors as companions and guides, demonstrating Wilkinson’s full engagement with the land and its people. It is a captivating conversation about life, love, loss, and pain, interwoven with striking illustrations by her longtime partner Ronald Davis. 

Free to attend, registration required. We hope to “see” you there!

Copies of the books, which will include bookplates SIGNED by the authors, can be purchased in advance using the buttons below!   Books are provided by Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis; purchasing books here helps support them AND Rain Taxi’s Twin Cities Book Festival—thank you!

Pick Up Blood on the Fog

 PRICE: $17

BOOK PURCHASE with Local Pickup at Magers & Quinn, Minneapolis, MN (price includes sales tax)

Ship Blood on the Fog

PRICE: $20

BOOK PURCHASE plus $3 shipping to your location (U.S. only, price includes sales tax)

Praise for Blood on the Fog:

“‘Revolution’ appears at least two dozen times in Tongo Eisen-Martin’s amazing Blood on the Fog. Find something like a revolving, reiterating locomotion of music riding the rails of thinking and feeling in Blood on the Fog. Find a poetry of ‘swinging type body language’ where the swinging swings like Ellington and Ali combined, knocking you out inside and out, and turning you around in this extraordinary book.”

Terrance Hayes

Pick Up Perfect Black

PRICE: $21

BOOK PURCHASE with Local Pickup at Magers & Quinn, Minneapolis, MN (price includes sales tax)

Ship Perfect Black

PRICE: $24

BOOK PURCHASE plus $3 shipping to your location (U.S. only, price includes sales tax)

Praise for Perfect Black:

“Crystal Wilkinson’s Perfect Black is powerful witch-work. In these cascading lyrics, Wilkinson casts her glittering net of protection over the bodies and hearts of every Black girl . . . Read this book and swerve, in Wilkinson’s “perfect cursive,” along paths ancestral and deliciously strange.”

—Kiki Petrosino

About the Authors

Tongo Eisen-Martin is the Poet Laureate of San Francisco. In addition to Blood on the Fog, he is the author of Heaven Is All Goodbyes (City Lights, 2017), which received an American Book Award, a California Book Award, was named a 2018 National California Booksellers Association Poetry Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Griffin International Poetry Prize. In their citation, the judges for the Griffin Prize wrote that Eisen-Martin’s work “moves between trenchant political critique and dreamlike association, demonstrating how, in the right hands, one mode might energize the other—keeping alternative orders of meaning alive in the face of radical injustice.” Eisen-Martin is also an educator and organizer whose work centers on issues of mass incarceration, extrajudicial killings of Black people, and human rights. 

Crystal Wilkinson is the Poet Laureate of Kentucky, and is the first African American woman to hold that position. In addition to Perfect Black, she is the author of three acclaimed books of fiction—The Birds of Opulence, winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence; Blackberries, Blackberries, winner of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature; and Water Street, a finalist for both the UK’s Orange Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. She is also the recipient of a 2021 O. Henry Prize and a 2020 USA Artists Fellowship, among other recognitions, and she is an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky. 

photo © AnastasiaPottinger

Michael Kleber-Diggs is a poet and essayist from Saint Paul, Minnesota. His debut poetry collection, Worldly Things, won the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize and was published by Milkweed Editions in June 2021; his work also appears in the anthologies There’s a Revolution Outside, My Love: Letters From a Crisis (Vintage) and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: Poems in the Wake of Racial Injustice (Rain Taxi), among other places. Michael teaches creative writing through the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and at colleges and high schools in Minnesota.