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An Excerpt from Charif Shanahan’s Latest Collection, “Trace Evidence”

An Excerpt from Charif Shanahan’s Latest Collection, “Trace Evidence”

  • An excerpt from Charif Shanahan's latest collection, "Trace Evidence"

Poet Charif Shanahan’s work has garnered an impressive list of accolades. His first collection, Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing, was selected by Allison Joseph as the winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, and it was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. His poems have been published in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and other journals, as well as in several anthologies. He’s the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and a Fulbright Senior Scholar Grant to Morocco, as well as a Wallace Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lectureship at Stanford University. He’s now based in Chicago, where he is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Northwestern University.

His new collection, Trace Evidence, came out this month. The individual poems are searing—dealing with mixed-race identity, queer desire, and anti-Blackness both here in the US and also abroad. Together, the collection is a stunning meditation on intimacy, time, and our universal need for connection. Electric and urgent, Trace Evidence is about belonging, and how love can help us not only survive, but thrive. 

We’re pleased to be able to publish a poem from Trace Evidence:

Talking With My Boss About Diversity and Inclusion

Sometimes she says they, sometimes she says you.
She’s talking about Black people.

When she says they, I try to forgive, to remember
She is not American and tends to miss

The nuance, the apparent contradiction
Of race not equaling phenotype: Or Black people

See Also

Having—how could it be?—blond hair and green eyes
Even when both parents are Black: Or my mother

Being an Arab and not American-born.
When she says you, I believe she is doing me a favor.

Note to readers: Charif Shanahan will have a release event featuring readings from Shanahan and other writers on April 6 sponsored by Women & Children First at Haymarket House with Ari Banias, Adrian Matejka, Erika L. Sànchez, and Avery R. Young.

Trace Evidence
by Charif Shanahan
Tin House Books
Published March 21, 2023

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