I'm finding my words insufficient for describing what Hicks has achieved with this book of poetry, so I'm going to quote Tyrese Coleman: “These poems explore Black femme power and the reclaiming of those harmed bodies...and embracing the nonbinary femme body through a miasma of language and imagery that conjures Christian, Afrofuturist, and Voodoo mysticism; it’s all beautifully visceral and real.”
— From HoodWitch
This riveting debut from poet Faylita Hicks is a reclamation of power for black women and nonbinary people whose bodies have become the very weapons used against them. HoodWitch tells the story of a young person who discovers that they are “something that can & will survive / a whole century of hunt.” Through a series of poems based on childhood photographs, Hicks invokes the spirits of mothers and daughters, sex workers and widows, to conjure an alternative to their own early deaths and the deaths of those whom they have already lost.
In this collection about resilience, Hicks speaks about giving her child up for adoption, mourning the death of her fiancé, and embracing the nonbinary femme body—persevering in the face of medical malpractice, domestic abuse, and police violence. The poems find people transformed, “remade out of smoke & iron” into cyborgs and wolves, machines and witches—beings capable of seeking justice in a world that refuses them the option.
Exploring the intersections of Christianity, modern mysticism, and Afrofuturism in a sometimes urban, sometimes natural setting, Hicks finds a place where “everyone everywhere is hands in the air,” where “you know they gonna push & pull it together. / Just like they learned to.” It is a place of natural magick—where someone like Hicks can have more than one name: where they can be both dead and alive, both a mortal and a god.
About the Author
Faylita Hicks (pronouns: she/her/they) is a queer writer and the Editor-in-Chief of Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Sierra Nevada University, and has received fellowships and residencies from Lambda Literary, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Tin House, Right of Return, and the Vermont Studio Center. Hicks's debut poetry collection HoodWitch (Acre Books, 2019) is a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award and the Julie Suk Award. Her poems and essays have been featured in or are forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, American Poetry Review, Poetry Daily, Slate, Longreads, Huffpost, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer, TheRumpus, Cincinnati Review, Adroit, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Hicks is a 2020-2022 Texas Touring Artist for the Texas Commission on the Arts.
"What is the difference between a god and a Gawd? What makes a woman a HoodWitch? Faylita Hicks speaks masterfully on the homespun magic of Black women, women who use 'dime store candles' and Florida water to heal their wounds and care for themselves in a world that does not care for them. As much as these poems are battle cries, there is a sadness and a violence to them too. Gawdliness demands sacrifice. HoodWitch is a testament to the lineage of power, vulnerability, and strength."
— Christina Orlando
“Faylita Hicks has written a hymnal. HoodWitch, her debut poetry collection, is not a book of worship but a recitation of who we are—madwomen, broken women, discarded and disregarded things—that excises the truth of us down to the molecular level.”
— Linden Avenue Literary Journal
"In its evocation of witchcraft, this book provides further examples of efforts to reclaim the language of witchcraft and demonology from the accusers and to repurpose the language to assert a femme vision of authority and autonomy. This book is also powerfully intersectional in its vision, emphasizing specifically black diasporic relationships with witchcraft and also attending to the particular violences and precarities that haunt black girlhoods."
— Kathryn Nuernberger
"HoodWitch examines what power looks like when reclaimed by Black women and nonbinary people. Considering the unique path of survival that queer Black people have to claim in our society, often alone, there’s something comforting about reading stories of resilience."
"In her tremendous debut, Faylita Hicks composes fresh poems out of old photographs, dealing with the deeply personal topics of adoption, partner loss, and nonbinary identities."
"Faylita Hicks is not a formally trained witch, but someone well-practiced. HoodWitch. . . is a four-part narrative that explores the dangers and beauty of Black motherhood, the unnatural rites of bringing life into a world where women are abused and children are left vulnerable. The book is a brave offering of blood, water, flesh, and bone, honoring the author’s personal experiences as well as those of 'every single Black girl gone missing.' Creating a work at once intimate and fantastical, Hicks carries trauma and grief yet is immune to pity."
— The Rumpus
"At the center of HoodWitch, the confident, crackling debut from Faylita Hicks, is 'Gawd,' whose very name reveals Hicks’s interest in re-creation and self-determination. . . . Drawing on private traumas—birth and death, sex and assault—as well as on public traumas—Eric Garner’s death, the abuse of black girls by R. Kelly—Hicks’s collection lays bare wounds and the cauterizing fire."
— Emily Pérez
"What an exhilarating collection Faylita Hicks's Hoodwitch is. . . . Visceral, riveting, and somehow both heartbreaking and empowering. The words lick at you from its pages like potent flames."
— Jami Attenberg, author of "All This Could Be Yours"
"Charged with surreal images and personal history, HoodWitch is an exciting debut that haunts at every possible turn. This richly imaginative world in which all is possible and time and space are merely distant constraints explores the hunger for intimacy and the constant remains of absence. This collection reminds that the truest representation of emotional truth is best derived through the fantastic. Each poem is a special magic that inhabits the deepest parts of the psyche, digs in, and resists forgetting."
— Airea D. Matthews, 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets winner
"The visceral music of this poet's hard-won grace is a liberating testament to black womanhood and what poetry can do. This 'hallelujah to the hoodwitches' is important, necessary, and fearless without a single false note—one of the most original debuts I have read in many years. These brilliant poems are built from fuel and fire. This powerful poet is the future and the truth."
— Lee Herrick
"HoodWitch is an incantatory, ecstatic collection brimming with heartbreak and triumph. The speakers in these poems move from child-like curiosity to devastating grief, all while singing a celebratory anthem for blxck wxmenhood. You cannot come away from this book unchanged. This resonant, capacious debut will leave you staggering. Faylita Hicks is just getting started. The world better get ready."
— Laura Wetherington, author of "A Map Predetermined and Chance"