Christian J. Collier’s poems of witness have the kind of keen insight that slices to the heart of the subject. The Gleaming of the Blade examines Black masculinity in the contemporary American South, alongside the lingering ghosts of the past, and how it feels to be Black in a country whose divisions and struggles could signal the end of civilization. These poems never shy away, interrogating harsh injustices and contending with the truth of today’s America, a truth sometimes beautiful, sometimes biting.
“‘What did not kill me, / I now belong to’ writes Christian J. Collier in The Gleaming of the Blade, and there are perhaps no better words for describing what it means to survive the South as Black and male, fetishized and rejected, loathed and loved. These poems describe coming of age in towns owned by racist fathers, policemen whose undischarged guns haunt one’s waking dreams, and women who make promises to their Black lovers that white privilege won’t let them keep. There is pain here, but also hope. There are ugly truths to be looked squarely in the ‘blue brooks’ of the eyes, but also beauty. And there are people who never make it out alive, who die by the hands of supremacy, white rage, and the police state, but there is also the voice of a poet, rising above the din of it all with a song.”
—Destiny O. Birdsong
“These poems are haunted by vanished gods, broken relationships, and the bodies of too many lives taken too soon, buried in Christian J. Collier’s brain. Family names take the form of bloody creeks. Lies are told to save a lover. Yet there is so much life here as well. The dubious privilege of living through it all is to be able to talk about it on the other side, and this collection of poems does so beautifully.”
“Christian J. Collier’s The Gleaming of the Blade is a victorious examination of the daily joys and pains of Black life and love. Collier’s vision is unflinching, his refusal to look away from what harms us, the first triumph of this fine work, both testimony and provocation. ‘I live // within a wound no one else can see,’ the poet writes, though, under his spell, we hear and feel that wound in these trenchant, resounding poems, so irrefutably we understand it to be ours, too. I was devastated by this chapbook and, at once, overjoyed—to find in Collier a new voice I will be listening to, I already know, for some time.”