Reading Negotiations is like grabbing a piece of metal so cold it feels like fire in your palm. Birdsong leverages both the eye-contact of direct confessional poetry and the ambiguity and complexity of more fluid poetic forms and expressions to create a collection that is equal parts pain and power. A challenging, exciting, even startling debut.
A Best Book of the Year at BuzzFeed, Refinery29, and more
What makes a self? In her remarkable debut collection of poems, Destiny O. Birdsong writes fearlessly towards this question. Laced with ratchetry, yet hungering for its own respectability, Negotiations is about what it means to live in this America, about Cardi B and top-tier journal publications, about autoimmune disease and the speaker’s intense hunger for her own body—a surprise of self-love in the aftermath of both assault and diagnosis. It’s a series of love letters to black women, who are often singled out for abuse and assault, silencing and tokenism, fetishization and cultural appropriation in ways that throw the rock, then hide the hand. It is a book about tenderness and an indictment of people and systems that attempt to narrow black women’s lives, their power. But it is also an examination of complicity—both a narrative and a black box warning for a particular kind of self-healing that requires recognizing culpability when and where it exists.
About the Author
Destiny O. Birdsong is a Louisiana-born poet, fiction writer, and essayist. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, Jack Jones Literary Arts, the Ragdale Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony, and won the Academy of American Poets Prize, Naugatuck River Review’s 2016 Narrative Poetry Contest, and Meridian’s 2017 “Borders” Contest in Poetry. She earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University, and now lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee.
Stunning. . . . A powerful paean to Black womanhood—to resilience, and, especially, triumph. — Refinery29
Destiny O. Birdsong is a phenomenal poet. . . . Negotiations signals the arrival of a voice we should all be paying attention to, one that thoughtfully and purposefully broadens our thinking about the interiority of Black women’s lives.
Radiant and vital. . . . It’s a collection best read slowly, and then again. — BuzzFeed News
Birdsong’s poems reveal the ways that so many borders—nation, race, gender—are structured to maintain hierarchies of allegiance and care. . . . The emergencies of the present are scored through with the fault lines of the past. Birdsong’s poems transform as they touch. — The Paris Review
Destiny O. Birdsong’s striking debut poetry collection explores complicity, rebukes systemic racism and hate, and celebrates the lives of Black women. — GOOP
The 34 poems in the volume are extremely readable, so much so that it’s tempting to rush through them. Don’t. Take your time. Ease into these poems. They’re worth it. — The Nashville Scene
Negotiations is made rich by its natural complexity, with few stones left unturned—poems address silencing, fetishization, tokenism and cultural appropriation with fierce honesty, the sum of which amount to an artfully written love letter to Black women in America. In Birdsong's debut, every angle of the self is worthy of recognition.
— Willamette Week
An extraordinary string of immaculate, brutal narratives about systemic violence and racism, and their repercussions for Black American women. . . . Birdsong’s striking imagery and contagious fervor are a potent salve against apathy and foreboding. — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Exquisite. . . . Birdsong’s poems bring the heart and the heat. — Book Marks
Reading Negotiations is like walking into a boxing match with an indefatigable fighter; you will be struck, and it will hurt. But for all of its ferocity in how it grapples with womanhood, sexuality, assault, and race, this collection is also full of wonder. Of forgiveness. Of tenderness, the like of which, ultimately, delivers the most powerful sucker punch.
— Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X
Negotiations is an intimate, stunning collection. Destiny O. Birdsong’s poems examine systems of power and oppression, violence, complicity. These poems are desire, survival, the body, rage, vulnerability. A fierce celebration of black womanhood.
— Jaquira Díaz, author of Ordinary Girls
The terms of Destiny O. Birdsong’s Negotiations are scalding and tender. . . . Birdsong excavates a national history and her speaker’s personal histories, tracks how their intersections and aftermaths wreak havoc in the woman who survives. But Birdsong’s Negotiations endgame is not simply survival—it aims to flourish.
— Donika Kelly, author of Bestiary
Reading Negotiations is like grabbing a piece of metal so cold it feels like fire in your palm. . . . A collection that is equal parts pain and power.