What Noise Against the Cane Desiree C. Bailey, Carl Phillips

Yale Series of Younger Poets
Publication date:
25 May 2021
Yale University Press
96 pages: 235 x 156 x 7mm
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The 115th volume of the Yale Series of Younger Poets is a lyrical and polyvocal exploration of what it means to fight for yourself

What Noise Against the Cane is a lyric quest for belonging and freedom, weaving political resistance, Caribbean folklore, immigration and the realities of Black life in America. Desiree C. Bailey begins by reworking the epic in an oceanic narrative of bondage and liberation in the midst of the Haitian Revolution. The poems move into the contemporary Black diaspora, probing the mythologies of home, belief, nation and womanhood. Series judge Carl Phillips observes that Bailey's “poems argue for hope and faith equally. . . . These are powerful poems, indeed, and they make a persuasive argument for the transformative powers of steady defiance.”

Desiree C. Bailey is the author of the fiction chapbook In Dirt or Saltwater and has been published in Best American Poetry, Academy of American Poets, Callaloo and elsewhere. She was born in Trinidad and Tobago, and grew up in Queens, NY.

"Bailey invites us to see what twenty-first-century life is like for a young woman of the Black diaspora in the long wake of a history of slavery, brutality, and struggling for freedoms bodily and psychological."—Carl Phillips, from the Foreword

"What Noise Against the Cane ruminates family and place, culture and daily rituals, and Desiree C. Bailey’s voice sings it all true, lived and imagined. There’s strength and give in each step of a journey, and traditional music informs this strong collection. Nimble phrasing and natural soil fuse into an extended narrative. Wherever this voice goes a Caribbean sun travels with it. The single, long line at the end of each page—as if a heart-line—accrues and transfigures this collection. Identity shines in each poem. And, as if a maroon might overhear, or a call awaits a response, What Noise Against the Cane embodies an intimate conjuring that fully engages the reader.—Yusef Komunyakaa