Imperial Liquor is a chronicle of melancholy, a reaction to the monotony of racism. These poems concern loneliness, fear, fatigue, rage, and love; they hold fatherhood held against the vulnerability of the black male body, aging, and urban decay. Part remembrance, part swan song for the Compton, California of the 1980s, Johnson examines the limitations of romance to heal broken relationships or rebuild a broken city. Slow Jams, red-lit rooms, cheap liquor, like seduction and betrayal—what’s more American? This book tracks echoes, rides the residue of music “after the love is gone.”
About the Author
Born and raised in Compton, California, Amaud Jamaul Johnson is the author of three poetry collections, Red Summer (2006), Darktown Follies (2013), and Imperial Liquor (2020). A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford, MacDowell Fellow, and Cave Canem Fellow, his honors include the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Dorset Prize, and a Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, The New York Times Magazine, Kenyon Review, Callaloo, Lit Hub, Narrative Magazine, Crazyhorse, Indiana Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review and elsewhere. Previously, he served as the Halls Bascom Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Arthur M. and Fanny M. Dole Professor of English at Pomona College. His most recent collection, Imperial Liquor, was a finalist for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2021 UNT Rilke Prize.