Smoking the Bible


Product Details

$17.00  $15.81
Copper Canyon Press
Publish Date
5.9 X 8.9 X 0.4 inches | 0.3 pounds

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About the Author

Acclaimed novelist, poet, and public speaker Chris Abani grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria. Author of fourteen books, he is the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship, among many honors. Abani is a Board of Trustees Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University.


"Abani's radiant seventh poetry collection emanates grit and beauty, while the senses are called to attention."--Booklist, Starred Review

"Few are the writers making poems and novels of the highest caliber. Chris Abani is one of these, part of a cadre that includes Michael Ondaatje and Patricia Lockwood. Thomas Hardy their predecessor in spirit. Smoking the Bible is his eighth book of poetry. The title refers to smoking thyme and oregano in torn-out pages from the King James with his brother, and the poems unfold a story of these 'two brothers, one elder. The biblical, / unavoidable here.' The elder is dying of sudden, terminal cancer. The younger is trying to account for who he is, immigrant-citizen in the United States far from his native southeastern Nigeria--they are Igbo--and the younger brother wants to account for the violence of their childhood, the toxicity of the masculinity they have known, and how it forged their bond. To lose such a sibling, the poems propose, is to lose half of a primal dialogue, and in this case it's a dialogue that makes up part of the self the surviving brother is left to carry, missing forever the response and the call to his call and response."--Jesse Nathan, McSweeney's

"This new collection by Nigerian American Chris Abani--the celebrated, award-winning novelist, poet and professor--mines individual, cultural, and geographic losses, creating a collection that is emotional and linguistically expansive. He explores 'the personal story of two brothers--one elegizing the other--and the larger story of a man in exile' through poems that are spiritual, philosophical, personal, and deeply affecting. Especially for those of us with more than one culture, the more we move through life, the more we must wonder: what do we belong to, and what belongs to us?"--Chicago Review of Books

"Displacement, violence at home, civil unrest, and neocolonial forms of subjugation are all running themes in this accomplished, elegiac collection...The poems of Smoking the Bible are portraits of suffering, and Abani delivers a deft sense of vulnerability in his depictions of Nigerian life". "Smoking the Bible stands out with its emphasis on the importance of ancestral language and ritual practices, reminding readers that the joy of reading poetry is first and foremost the experience of language."--Harvard Review

"These elegiac meditations on faith, heritage, masculinity, race, and familial loss are particularized in the manner of well-crafted fiction, while reaching beyond the afflictions of one man's family to something vaster."--Harriet Books, Poetry Foundation

"In this poetry collection, multidisciplinary writer Chris Abani takes the point of view of a person elegizing his own brother while living with the realities of exile--culturally, geographically, and emotionally. His work incorporates various artistic, intellectual, and belief traditions from Africa and across the world."--Shondaland

"Smoking the Bible is a powerful, elegiac collection, eloquent with grief and forgiveness."--North of Oxford

"These poems follow the story of two brothers and a man in exile; but reader beware: this award-winning poet's words can move anyone to their core."--She Reads