Heaven Is All Goodbyes: Pocket Poets No. 61


Product Details

$15.95  $14.83
City Lights Books
Publish Date
5.0 X 6.2 X 0.5 inches | 0.25 pounds

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About the Author

Tongo Eisen-Martin is the Poet Laureate of San Francisco, California. He is the author of Heaven Is All Goodbyes (City Lights Books, 2017), which was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, received the California Book Award for Poetry, an American Book Award, and a PEN Oakland Book Award. He is also the author of someone's dead already (Bootstrap Press, 2015). Blood on the Fog, a new collection of poems, is forthcoming from City Lights Publishers in September, 2021.


Shortlisted for the 2018 Griffin International Poetry Prize

2018 American Book Award Winner

2018 PEN Oakland Award Winner

Winner of the 2018 California Book Award for Poetry

2018 NCIBA Poetry Book of the Year

"Tongo Eisen-Martin's Heaven Is All Goodbyes moves between trenchant political critique and dreamlike association, demonstrating how, in the right hands, one mode might energize the other--keeping alternative orders of meaning alive in the face of radical injustice. Eisen-Martin's voice is a chorus of other voices, many arising from prisons and landscapes of engineered poverty; his poems are places where discourses and vernaculars collide and recombine into new configurations capable of expressing outrage and sorrow and love. This unpredictable volume is equally a work of commitment and of wonder; no false consolation, no settling for despair. Its music makes a clearing in the dominant logic of the day. 'When a drummer is present, he or she is God // I am not an I. / I am a black commons.'"--Judges' Citation, Griffin International Poetry Prize

"Eisen-Martin responds to state violence, deindustrialization, police brutality, the prison industrial-complex, and more in this churning whirlpool that records the complicated experiences faced by members of the African diaspora in America. He looks to history, writing of 'the way condemned Africans fought their way back to the ocean only to find waves made of / 1920s burned up piano parts / European backdoor deals / and red flowers for widows who spend all day in the sun mumbling at San Francisco.' But as an educator and organizer, Eisen-Martin is also steeped in the current moment. The passion with which he writes calls the reader to join the masses in the streets: 'you are going to want/ to lose that job / before the revolution hits.' It's a slippery, complex collection; long poems of polyphonic voices slalom across the margins of the page while unattributed quotes pop in and out, like singular expressions in a protest crowd. 'We got plenty of pain/ to stay on this guitar/ for one hundred years, ' declares an anonymous voice in 'May Day' amid swirls of lament and celebration. Unabashedly a product of 21st-century America and fully attuned to its historical lineage, Eisen-Martin's impeccable collection is a crucial document of this time."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[T]he poems of [Eisen-Martin's] astonishing book Heaven Is All Goodbyes come together and read in a way that's similar to his speech ... he paints tragic pictures of death, oppressive systems and cigarettes dragged in order to breathe. ... The voices enter and exit without explanation and are part of what makes his poems at once urgent protests and jazz-like puzzles."--San Francisco Chronicle

"'Somewhere in america/ the prison bus is running on time, ' writes Tongo Eisen-Martin in Heaven Is All Goodbyes, the poetry collection I turned to most in 2018. (It came out in September 2017, but I got hip to it late -- this isn't science.) Eisen-Martin is singing in dark times about dark times. Every poem pops with rightly sad inscrutability: 'the city rain feels like clientele.' Nature itself: a customer database. Anna Akhmatova, waiting in line outside a Soviet prison to learn of her son's fate, was asked, 'Can you describe this?' 'Yes, ' she said, 'I can.' Eisen-Martin waits in line with the rest of us, describing: 'If it has a prison, it is a prison. Not a city.'"--Michael Robbins, Chicago Tribune

"There is a sublime cadence in Eisen-Martin's work that is polyphonic, gritty, and unexpectedly fragile, like jazz. These poems yell, shriek, whisper, mumble in a mosaic of disenfranchised voices pondering police brutality, guns, the power of community, the terror of inherited addiction, and the cold nature of a city that blankets the poor and colored in oppression. . . . I don't know about you, but it's exactly the type of poetry I would want to be reading at the end of the world--the kind that holds a mirror to itself, then a mirror to that mirror."--KQED Arts

"Heaven Is All Goodbyes makes no promises ... Instead, it recites a prayer that doesn't expect to be answered ... The equanimity and confidence of these poems cut through catastrophe, reminding us to stay attuned to the present moment, sensitive to whatever circumstances we may end up in."--Mask Magazine

"Eisen-Martin's poetry presents a frank and unflinching portrait of the contemporary urban imagination unrelentingly ravaged by social injustice. He serves witness to how prevalent the imbalances of race and power in our society are."--American Poetry Review

"The 42 poems in this poet's second book are a volatile cocktail of surrealism, blunt images, raw observations and transcendent epiphanies. Eisen-Martin is a poetic Jimi Hendrix on the page and the stage."--Cultural Weekly

"More than grieving the dead and the ideology that normalizes their killing, poetry should encourage disinvestment in the state of affairs that normalizes death and suffering. It should encourage broad reimagining of social arrangement, and address itself to the forms of collective life that may emerge. Heaven Is All Goodbyes does just that, and offers a glimpse of what poetry might follow the dissolution of the current order."--Commune Magazine