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Tenderness and Reparations Now!: A Poetic Conversation with Derrick Austin and Ashley M. Jones

Event date: 
Saturday, September 18, 2021 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm

This event takes place on crowdcast, Charis' virtual event platform. Register here.

Charis welcomes poets Ashley M. Jones and Derrick Austin for a celebration of their new collections Reparations Now! and Tenderness.

Reparations Now asks for what's owed. In formal and non-traditional poems, award-winning poet Ashley M. Jones calls for long-overdue reparations to the Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States of America. This event is co-hosted by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History. 

In this, her third collection, Jones deftly takes on the worst of today--state-sanctioned violence, pandemic-induced crises, and white silence--all while uplifting Black joy. These poems explore trauma past and present, cultural and personal: the lynching of young, pregnant Mary Turner in 1918; the current white nationalist political movement; a case of infidelity. These poems, too, are a celebration of Black life and art: a beloved grandmother in rural Alabama, the music of James Brown and Al Green, and the soil where okra, pole beans, and collards thrive thanks to her father's hands. 

By exploring the history of a nation where "Black oppression's not happenstance; it's the law," Jones links past harm to modern heartache and prays for a peaceful world where one finds paradise in the garden in the afternoon with her family, together, safe, and worry-free. While exploring the ways we navigate our relationships with ourselves and others, Jones holds us all accountable, asking us to see the truth, to make amends, to honor one another.

Ashley M. Jones is the Poet Laureate of Alabama and the author of Magic City Gospel and dark / / thing. Her poetry has earned several awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, POETRY, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. She teaches at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, she co-directs PEN Birmingham, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival.

In a country where violence and the threat of violence is a constant weather for queer black people, where can the spirit rest?

With lush language, the meditative poems in the Isabella Gardner Award-winning Tenderness examine the fraught nature of intimacy in a nation poisoned by anti-Blackness and homophobia. From the bedroom to the dance floor, from the natural world to The Frick, from the Midwest to Florida to Mexico City, the poems range across interior and exterior landscapes. They look to movies, fine art, childhood memory, history, and mental health with melancholy, anger, and playfulness.

Even amidst sorrow and pain, Tenderness uplifts communal spaces as sites of resistance and healing, wonders at the restorative powers of art and erotic love, and celebrates the capaciousness of friendship.

Derrick Austin is the author of Tenderness, forthcoming from BOA Editions in September 2021, and Trouble the Water (BOA Editions, 2016). His debut collection was honored as a finalist for the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the 2017 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and the 2017 Norma Faber First Book Award. A chapbook, Black Sand, is forthcoming from Foundlings Press in 2022.

This event is free and open to all people, especially to those who have no income or low income right now, but we encourage and appreciate a solidarity donation in support of the work of Charis Circle, our programming non-profit. Charis Circle's mission is to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices.

We will be archiving this event and adding closed captioning as soon as possible after airing so that it will be accessible to deaf and HOH people. If you have other accessibility needs or if you are someone who has skills in making digital events more accessible please don't hesitate to reach out to We are actively learning the best practices for this technology and we welcome your feedback as we begin this new way of connecting across distances.

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Event address: 
Reparations Now! By Ashley M. Jones Cover Image
ISBN: 9781938235863
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Hub City Press - September 7th, 2021

Reparations Now asks for what's owed.

Magic City Gospel By Ashley M. Jones Cover Image
ISBN: 9781938235269
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Hub City Press - January 1st, 2017

Magic City Gospel is a love song to Birmingham, the Magic City of the South. In traditional forms and free verse poems, 2015 Rona Jaffe Writer's Award-winner Ashley M. Jones takes readers on an historical, geographical, cultural, and personal journey through her life and the life of her home state.

Dark // Thing: Poems By Ashley M. Jones Cover Image
ISBN: 9780807170601
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pleiades Press - February 12th, 2019

dark // thing is a multifaceted work that explores the darkness/otherness by which the world sees Black people. Ashley M. Jones stares directly into the face of the racism that allows people to be seen as dark things, as objects that can be killed/enslaved/oppressed/devalued.

Tenderness By Derrick Austin Cover Image
ISBN: 9781950774395
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: BOA Editions - September 21st, 2021

In a country where violence and the threat of violence is a constant weather for queer Black people, where can the spirit rest?

Trouble the Water By Derrick Austin, Mary Szybist (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Derrick Austin, Mary Szybist (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781942683049
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: BOA Editions - April 12th, 2016

Profound, lyric poems interrogate what it means to be fully human as a "queer, black body" in 21st century America.

Event Summary: 
Charis welcomes poets Ashley M. Jones and Derrick Austin for a celebration of their new collections Reparations Now! and Tenderness.