Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing: poems
Winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, selected by Allison Joseph.
Now available for purchase at Southern Illinois University Press, Indiebound, and Amazon.
Read: Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"Charif Shanahan’s Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing is a heroic first collection where an alert dialog beckons us, and we risk entering. Here in these pages the politics of color is highly personal; in a time of bleaching creams and psychological erasures, where there’s an attempt to diminish the African, this poet confronts himself and family head-on, and in doing so, through wit and an astute sense of history, his poetry dares to affect the reader. These poems cross borders in the blood and through an imagination that challenges us. Each trope is made of feeling. We need Shanahan’s voice in this time of reckoning with ourselves as a complex nation where each of us may understand implicitly when a speaker asks, 'What pattern of occasion will free him?'"
—Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Magic City
“Charif Shanahan’s debut collection, Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing, is an intricate meditation on the complexities of identity, the difficulties of relationships—with parents, with lovers—and the search for selfhood, ‘who we are to ourselves.’ These are resonant poems, both searching and tender. The poet writes: ‘I’ll sit in silence, / drinking hot tea to scald the place / in my body where the pain roots.’ From that pain what remains is not merely the hurt but the light that emanates from the wound.”
—Natasha Trethewey, former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Native Guard
“From Marrakesh to London to Zürich to our bedrooms and kitchens enters this song of grief and clarity of perspective that is sobering. Lyrical and unforgiving, Shanahan’s voice sees our bodies for what they are, in our streets, in our politics, in our beds, in our racist and ruthless empire where even the sky can be ‘ill-fitting, unhinging, barely awake.’ With Shanahan as our guide, we are given poems that speak straight at us, without patronizing; the pain gives us claritas of being this much alive. I believe Shanahan is a rare kind of poet because his voice is unrelenting and calm at once; he is both vividly empathetic and fiercely honest. The poems in this powerful book dare to see themselves (and us) clearly in this night.”
—Ilya Kaminsky, Whiting Award–winning author of Dancing in Odessa
CRAB ORCHARD SERIES IN POETRY JUDGE'S CITATION:
"Charif Shanahan's poetry lives and thrives at the risky intersections of race, class, religion, gender, and sexuality, giving full lyric expression to all the cadences and intimacies that make his work so profound. His is the poetry of the traveling mind, the wandering soul, the poet as reporter and as fortune-teller, as confidant and soothsayer. This book will not leave you, will not easily shake you free to move onto the next book. Moment by moment, Charif Shanahan builds worlds out of the most exquisite and tender images, makes searingly real human agonies and regrets we usually dare not speak. Into Each Room. . . is more than a debut collection of poetry—it's a revelation. It's the kind of book that in its beauty and force, makes us glad to be alive."
—Allison Joseph, author of Imitation of Life and My Father's Kites