“King (Island Bodies), an accomplished scholar and performer, opens her formally daring verse debut with a version of “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” recasting it to address Afro-Caribbean... [continued in Reviews below]”—Publishers Weekly
Rock|Salt|Stone sprays life-preserving salt through the hard realities of rocks, stones, and rockstones used as anchors, game pieces, or weapons. The manuscript travels through Africa, the Caribbean, and the USA, including cultures and varieties of English from all of those places. The poems center the experience of the outsider, whether she is an immigrant, a woman, or queer. Sometimes direct, sometimes abstract, these poems engage different structures, forms, and experiences while addressing the sharp realities of family, sexuality, and immigration.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“King (Island Bodies), an accomplished scholar and performer, opens her formally daring verse debut with a version of “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” recasting it to address Afro-Caribbean diasporas, and starring Yoruba deities Eshu, Oshun, and Ogun. “My brawn it belongs to the Ogun/ my blood it flows into the sea/ the two meet inside a black body/ and whisper you fight to be free,” runs one of several verses before the newly meaningful call to “Bring/ Back.” It is representative of several defining elements of the book, among them a deep engagement with history and mythology, a sense of play, and formal techniques that require the reader to hear—not just read—the poem...King uses English while writing beyond and against the bounds of its conventions, and also to foreground the speaking, hearing body—and importantly, the black, queer, female body—as the site where language originates and lands.”—Publishers Weekly
“Because bodies are not rocks but get weighed down by them when tossed into the ocean to drown. Because bodies are not consumed by mouths but are covered in salty sweat and can be beaten like meat. Because bodies have mouths but can not always speak without being stoned and sometimes the mouths make the wrong shapes and so the bodies become demons then ghosts then demons then ghosts again. Because the bodies wash up on the shore and wash up still. Because all things that are life become death like water or salt or stone or rock or other bodies and when not all the bodies fit together huddled on the rock, and so as some bodies cling to the hard surface with their bruised fingers and open mouths, other bodies shove those bodies off, without blinking, because blinking would be memory, and here, in the unraveling hardness and conjuration of demons, memory is not always honest and words are not always true.”—Janice Lee
“ ‘Her blending of different performance styles, interactions with the audience and the staging of the performance enables people to empathize with the stories she depicts, even if they may not be familiar with all of the contexts in which these stories occur’ noted Shakes. This original performance style was one reason why Shakes wanted to bring King to campus. ‘King’s Verse Cabaret technique represents a very interesting and fresh take on this method of performing, and I wanted the College of Wooster community to experience it as an alternative to other, more well-known forms of performance in the United States,’ she said.”
—Eleanor Linafelt, The Wooster Voice
“If you only read one book of poems this year, treat yourself to this collection. Dr. King’s imagery and language draws on different cultures, African, Carribean, Queer, and American, and folklore. Her poems are lyrical and rich, and her playfulness with language is apparent even as she addresses subjects that are heartbreaking, the positive energy of these poems shines through...Even if you are someone who does not read poetry, particularly if you are someone who does not read poetry, get outside of your comfort zone and read these poems.”—Brenda Murphy, Writing While Distracted
“King’s persona is one who brings healing through truth-telling, blood-letting, and unearthing as she traverses time and space.” —Ebony Noelle Golden
“Nation language, language poetry, prose poems, spells, Caribbean nancy stories, queer issues, Rock|Salt|Stone, African (Yoruba) belief systems and ancestral memory all find a place in Rosamond S. King’s multiplicity of forms. The embodied quality of the poems and King’s willingness to confront the inherent difficulty of relationship with the Other, who is always us, grounds the work in a somatic poetics that demands the reader pay attention. ”—M. NourbSe Philip
“... are you creating demons/or maybe just writing poems?" When the poem is a spell, the poet does both: conjuring. In the startling Rock | Salt | Stone, Rosamond S. King calls demons of sudden, though long due violence; of folklore mashed up down the hold to be “mashed up” with what awaits on new shores; of perverse yearnings to pike transgressive sexuality on a cis-man’s index. King works hard magic in the smoke of this infernal manufactory, nose open for at least two kinds of salt, ears open to crack double-jointed syntax, eyes open to those who swear destroying her is divine. She sees them traveling their straight line—this bravura book of curses means to curve them.”—Douglas Kearney
“In Rock|Salt|Stone, poet, critic, artist, and activist Rosamond S. King creates and conjures the elemental, in form and language, into a stellar, black, queer womynist force. Traversing continents (Gambia, Trinidad and Tobago, the US), and a variety of idioms, King’s poems cast sparks, strike lightning. Showing how poetry can shift codes and embody experience, whether that of women coming out to their family and loving each other without fear, whether calling upon the deities or living and surviving chronic pain, King playfully sculpts with the tenderness of a razor, and she ain’t playing. Enter into these poems, and surrender to their spell.”—John Keene
From the Book:
you woke up yesterday and did not expect to die
so of course the night seemed different, smiling.
before sleeping you sighed, and then
and then, and then? Tomorrow you will
look in a glass and nearly trip
startled by your own beauty,
outlined by the sun.
ROSAMOND S. KING is a creative and critical writer, performer, and artist. She is the author of the critical book Island Bodies: Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination. She is an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College.