Finalist, National Book Awards 2021 for Poetry

ISBN 9781950268153
Wave Books
Douglas Kearney

Douglas Kearney has published seven poetry collections, including Buck Studies, which won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize, the CLMP Firecracker Award for Poetry, and the California Book Award Silver Medal in poetry. (Photo credit: Bao Phi) More about this author >

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Eschewing performative typography, Douglas Kearney’s Sho aims to hit crooked licks with straight-seeming sticks. Navigating the complex penetrability of language, these poems are sonic in their espousal of Black vernacular strategies, while examining histories and current events through the lyric, brand new dances, and other performances. Both dazzling and devastating, Sho is a genius work of literary precision, wordplay, farce, and critical irony. In his “stove-like imagination,” Kearney has concocted poems that destabilize the spectacle, leaving looky-loos with an important uncertainty about the intersection between violence and entertainment.

Judges Citation

In the nimble language of Sho, Douglas Kearney moves between iconographies of not only entertainment and violence but also of hearsay and the historical record. The dance is lyrical; the words at once feel familiar and still completely novel; and the engagement is vital. What lies within comes through “over Celestial telephone wire,” and it’s “sho” nuff the truth. This collection of meditations on how the past catches up with the present moment, ignites a charge to join in and to take note of our world, as it tries to find its groove.


Douglas Kearney, 2021 National Book Awards Poetry Finalist, reads from SHO