When I Waked, I Cried to Dream Again

W. W. Norton & Company

A dynamic, moving hybrid work that celebrates Black youth, often too fleeting, and examines Black lives lost to police violence. 

In this astonishing volume of poems and lyric prose, Whiting Award–winner A. Van Jordan draws comparisons to Black characters in Shakespearean plays—Caliban and Sycorax from?The Tempest, Aaron the Moor from?Titus Andronicus, and the eponymous antihero of?Othello—to mourn the deaths of Black people, particularly Black children, at the hands of police officers. What do these characters, and the ways they are defined by the white figures who surround them, have in common with Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and other Black people killed in the twenty-first century?

Balancing anger and grief with celebration, Jordan employs an elastic variety of poetic forms, including ekphrastic sestinas inspired by the photography of Malick Sidibé, fictional dialogues, and his signature definition poems that break down the insidious power of words like “fair,” “suspect,” and “juvenile.” He invents a new form of window poems, based on a characterization exercise, to see Shakespeare’s Black characters in three dimensions, and finds contemporary parallels in the way these characters are othered, rendered at once undesirable and hypersexualized, a threat and a joke.

At once a stunning inquiry into the roots of racist violence and a moving recognition of the joy of Black youth before the world takes hold, When I Waked, I Cried to Dream Again expresses the preciousness and precarity of life.

About the Author

A. Van Jordan’s classes focus not only on Creative Writing but also on the ways in which engaging with film and using historical research can influence the writing. Jordan is the author of four collections: Rise, which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award (Tia Chucha Press, 2001); M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, (2005), which was listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by The London Times; Quantum Lyrics, (2007); and The Cineaste, (2013), W.W. Norton & Co. Jordan has been awarded a Whiting Writers Award, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He is also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2007), a United States Artists Fellowship (2009), and a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry (2015). He has taught at a number of institutions including University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of Texas at Austin, where he was tenured as an Associate Professor, Rutgers University-Newark where he served as the Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor, and at University of Michigan, where he served as the Robert Hayden Collegiate Professor of English Language & Literature, and as Director of the Helen Zell Writers MFA Program.