In the Language of My Captor

Finalist, National Book Awards 2017 for Poetry

In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae book cover
ISBN 9780819577115
Wesleyan University Press
Shane McCrae author photo
Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is the author of four other books of poetry, including The Animal Too Big to Kill, Mule, Forgiveness Forgiveness, and Blood. He lives in Oberlin, Ohio. More about this author >

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Acclaimed poet Shane McCrae’s latest collection is a book about freedom told through stories of captivity. Historical persona poems and a prose memoir at the center of the book address the illusory freedom of both black and white Americans. In the book’s three sequences, McCrae explores the role mass entertainment plays in oppression, he confronts the myth that freedom can be based upon the power to dominate others, and, in poems about the mixed-race child adopted by Jefferson Davis in the last year of the Civil War, he interrogates the infrequently examined connections between racism and love.

Judges Citation

With an innovative approach to the line, Shane McCrae’s In the Language of My Captor sets speech at odds with language. These poems upend tropes of racial stigma and reveal a captivating interior life. Whether in persona or the lyric first person, each monologue finds a voice painfully self-aware, prayerful, and astute. Tender if not forgiving, this book is an intimate account of the ways we negotiate the forms of our captivity.