What Are We Not For by Tommye Blount


by Tommye Blount

ISBN: 978-1-4951-5763-9
Softcover, 34 pages.

Through biography, fairy tale, and history, Tommye Blount’s debut chapbook What Are We Not For redraws the fatherland of manhood as a territory beyond whose borders tenderness and cruelty fight for space.

SKU: 978-1-4951-5763-9 Categories: , Tags: , , , , ,


The men and boys in these poems are transformed into instruments of pleasure and of destruction, worshipped artifacts and disfigured toys, victims and assailants. What Are We Not For moves its reader toward caustic longing, the hope that danger and risk promise.

“Intimate, honeyed with grace, the poems in What Are We Not For make visible love’s constraints. Lovers dive into the carnal, but emerge slick and singed. A son yearns for a father’s acceptance. Men cruise the night and dating apps only to find ‘delectable poison’ and racist fantasies. All this seeking and yearning is sheltered in lines that are incisive and sensual. Tommye Blount is one of my favorite emerging poets. In his hands, language becomes ‘a call of danger’ and ‘a call / of ecstasy.’ He’s a poet to watch. To read. Pick up this chapbook.”  —Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning

“Tommye Blount’s What Are We Not For is an instruction manual on how to fall to our knees and crawl from the mouth of failed transformations. Here, Pinocchio’s boyhood demands bloodspill for proof and the speaker’s humanity is never fulfilled: “After all, I am a broken animal.” Desire turns toward the darkest trail and does not look back through challenging forms and twisted prosody. This collection is rope and whip, daughter-sons and muzzles, and “a prayer they mistake/ for a growl.” I am not myself, any longer, after these poems.”  —Phillip B. Williams, author of Thief in the Interior

Read a sample poem:

The Bug

lands on my pretty man’s forearm. Harmless,
it isn’t deadly at all; makes his muscle flutter
—the one that gets his hand to hold mine, or
ball into a fist, or handle a gun. It’s a Ladybug,
or an Asian Lady Beetle everyone mistakes
for a Ladybug—eating whatever
it lands on. My pretty man is asleep—at ease, or
plotting like the bug. Or maybe the bug
is a blowfly—eating my pretty man’s tan
from his pretty arm. My man swat it
without waking, as if he’s dreaming of an enemy,
or me. When my pretty man isn’t asleep
he’s got a temper.

No, he is not
asleep. He’s wide awake and wants me to tell you
I’m wrong. Blowflies don’t eat skin,
they lay eggs on skin. He knows all about
blowfly larvae. Napoleon used them
to clean war wounds, my cold pretty man
says in that pretty way,
with his cold pretty mouth. He’s eaten plenty
of bugs before. On night watch,
over there. Over there, they’re everywhere.

“The Bug” originally appeared in Poetry

Tommye Blount grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is the author of the poetry collection Fantasia for the Man in Blue (2020) and the chapbook What Are We Not For (2016). Fantasia for the Man in Blue was a 2020 National Book Award Finalist in the Poetry category. Blount has been awarded scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Cave Canem, and Kresge Arts. He lives in Novi, Michigan.

Additional information

Weight .3 lbs
Dimensions 5.5 × .25 × 8.5 in


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