This collection of love poems draws us into the sacred liminal space that surrounds death. With her beloved gravely ill, poet and activist Minnie Bruce Pratt turns to daily walks and writing to find a way to go on in a world where injustice brings so much loss and death. She chronicles the quiet rooms of “pain and the body’s memory,” bringing the reader carefully into moments that will be familiar to anyone who has suffered similar loss. Even as she asks, “What’s the use of poetry? Not one word comes back to talk me out of pain,” the book delivers a vision of love that is boldly political and laced with a tumultuous hope that promises: “Revolution is bigger than both of us, revolution is a science that infers the future presence of us.” This poetry is testimony to the generative power of love that continues after death.
Published by Wesleyan University Press
VIDEO: Minnie Bruce Pratt reads from her new poetry MAGNIFIED for the Sinister Wisdom community. Board member Rose Norman introduces. SW editor and publisher Julie R. Enszer talks life and poetry with Pratt. At Sinister Wisdom.
I lie in the dark, listening to a pulse of sound,
letters in an unknown alphabet spelling out words
hat come and go through a sorrowful labyrinth.
And out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse you
passing down the dim-lit hallway, the edge of you.
Your sleeve, perhaps.
In 1989, Crime Against Nature, on Pratt’s relationship to her two sons as a lesbian mother, was chosen as the Lamont Poetry Selection by the Academy of American Poets, an annual award given for the best second full-length book of poetry by a U.S. author. The judges said of the book, “Pratt tells a moving story of loss and recuperation, discovering linkages between her own disenfranchisement and the condition of other minorities. She makes it plain, in this masterful sequence of poems, that the real crime against nature is violence and oppression.” In 1991 Crime Against Nature was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and given the American Library Association Gay and Lesbian Book Award for Literature. That year Pratt, along with lesbian writers Chrystos and Audre Lorde, received a Lillian Hellman-Dashiell Hammett award given by the Fund for Free Expression to writers “who have been victimized by political persecution.” These three writers were selected because of their experience “as a target of right-wing and fundamentalist forces during the recent attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts.”
In 1992 her book of autobiographical and political essays, Rebellion: Essays 1980-1991, was a Finalist in Non-Fiction for the Lambda Literary Awards. This volume includes her feminist classic, the essay “Identity: Skin Blood Heart,” adopted for teaching use in hundreds of college courses and community groups.
Her book of prose stories about gender-boundary-crossing, S/HE, was a finalist in Non-Fiction for the 1995 American Library Association Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Book Award. In these lyrical vignettes, Pratt writes about the many ways to be girl, boy, man, woman, and those of us in-between. S/HE explores the inconsistencies, the infinities, the fluidity of sex and gender.
Pratt’s Walking Back Up Depot Street (University of Pittsburgh Poetry Series) is a dramatically multi-vocal story of the segregated rural South and a white woman named Beatrice who is leaving that home for the postindustrial North. ForeWord: the Magazine of Independent Bookstores and Booksellers said of these poems, “This is an exceptional collection in every way: broad in subject, skilled in craft, diverse in its population and conscious of the tragic world….Pratt has created a Beatrice as momentous as Dante’s.” Walking Back Up Depot Street was chosen by ForeWord as Best Lesbian/Gay Book of the Year.
PODCAST: A Triumph: Dr. Minnie-Bruce Pratt Higher Ground Society (Mar 16, 2021)
Pratt’s selected poems, The Dirt She Ate (University of Pittsburgh Poetry Series), received the 2003 Lambda Literary Award for Poetry. This volume contains poems described by the New York Times Book Review as “original, startling,” and by Publishers Weekly as “hard-edged and provocative” dealing “directly and explicitly with issues of anger, shame, sexuality, and injustice.” Reviewer Joy Parks in Gay Content Link says, “If you read only one book of poetry this year, The Dirt She Ate should be it.” Work from this book received the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America.
Pratt’s Inside the Money Machine (Carolina Wren Press), has been described as “stunning anti-capitalist poetics in action” and as “the voices of our selves crying out.” These fresh, gritty and passionate poems are about the people who survive and resist inside “the money machine” of 21st-century capitalism—those who’ve looked for work and not found it, who’ve held a job but wanted more out of life, who believe a better world is still possible. Inside the Money Machine was chosen for the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry in 2011.