Publication Date:  October 15, 2020
Paperback, 104 pages
ISBN:  978-1-937968-72-4

Booksellers:  Available from
Small Press Distribution

$22.50 retail, or
when you order directly from
Broadstone Books, below
upfromsumdirt is the
author of four chapbooks and the
full-length collection,
Deifying A
Total Darkness
(Harry Tankoos
Books, 2020) available through He
is a 2010 winner of Kentucky’s
Al Smith Award for Art (as
Ronald Davis), whose visual work
has graced the covers of
African American Review
, Tidal
Basin Review
, Mythium Literary
, and various book covers
for a variety of published authors.
You can view his portfolio at, and if so
moved you can find him across
the spectrum of social media sites.
The title of this new volume of poetry by upfromsumdirt packs a lot of meaning and
intention into a mere three words.  It is dedicated to Emmett Till, and more recent
Black victims of violence, and is entirely an urgent demand for social justice.  But
don’t be fooled by the play on words, for upfromsumdirt isn’t playing around here.  
This isn’t a poet merely having fun with language (well, there are points where he
clearly is enjoying himself), but rather a reclaiming and reinvention of language in
order to engage it in the serious work at hand.  In “Tea with Bojangles” he proclaims
“reinvisionism is a freedom / if not a luxury, the tongues of your / indignant gods in
my painted mouth like / a mud dauber in pink cotton candy….”  He knows that words
have power to sting, and one word that he uses repeatedly is “Africadabra,” an act of
conjuring, invoked to break “connection to the God of Chains… / His shackles left
you spouting slave-words / from your spirit….”  He knows the very language in which
he writes is a legacy of slavery, and he shatters and reforges it, breaking the chain,
making it a new thing.  Freeing it, and with it himself, and us.

There is also a ring of science to the title, suggesting light emanating from excitation,
which is no accident, for upfromsumdirt often employs the language of science, and
science fiction, in his work, connecting it to Afrofuturism and the projection of a
future embracing Blackness.  In “Black Wholeness:  A Theorem,” he hypothesizes
that “thick = dark thighs x 40 thieves to the power of mules,” and enjoins us to
“please discount all that you believe about gravity // in the romanticism of
lightless / reality a poem for love i
s born….”

“[S]hit happens when we raise accountants / instead of wizards,” he laments in
“Playdates for Zombied Heads of State,” anxious over the world awaiting his six-year-
old son.  “[I]t’s as I always say: // a people without the science / to contort their skin
into myth / abort the realities they want….”  As a talisman against “walking rigor
mortis” he places his “solemn black word” beneath the boy’s pillow.  And in this
volume, upfromsumdirt, wizard and poet (for are they not the same thing?) has placed
many solemn black words in our ears, in hope that we might hear, and heed.

Praise for upfromsumdirt & To Emit Teal

upfromsumdirt has one of the most unique and necessary voices in contemporary
poetry. brothadirt almost always veers from the dominant narrative for the sake of
correcting a narrative that is a lie.
To Emit Teal operates in the African American
Vernacular tradition of playfulness with a willful ambiguity that screams of echoes
from the first cornfield field holla. While dedicated to Emmet Till and his impact on
history. dirt, the poet, tells us that to emit teal is to divulge the impact of the blues as
it relates to Black Life and Black Life Matter(s.) His natural aesthetics of countering
the expected with the unexpected through subversive language is inviting; yet, it cuts
with precision, opening up endless possibilities. brothadirt does not use the tools of the
master to bring the house down because he understands the idea of Blackness was
stolen away as art for the sake of contemporary art, as witnessed with lines like:
“robbed of backstory you gave me blackface in biography placed a bid so high on
birth that i can’t now afford death your welts on my back are not a Banksy yet still
i excel at art: how could i not turn anything but surreal?” This is not the poetry of
sameness but that of what the creative mind can accomplish when challenged.

                                      —Randall Horton, author of
{#289-128}: Poems

I’ve been chasing Brother Dirt for years, his images, his words, his mind, the man
himself. As he claims in these poems, he’s a shaman, equal parts kingsnake and snake-
handler. He’s a word geek, a science geek, a myth geek. He plays the fool and he’s
straight-up bodhisattva tour-de-force and stone-cold craftsman. He hip-grinds and
shimmy-jumps from Wile E. Coyote to Audre Lorde to Hatshepsut to Mrs.
Butterworth to Carl Sagan like a Cirque de Soleil lapdancer. He may be
upfromsumdirt, but he’s still rising and there ain’t no end to his smart af. Like the best
poems, his roll and crunch, gut and heal. He’s Africa. He’s America. Hell, for my
money, he’s Papa Legba.

                                      —Steve Davenport, author of
Bruise Songs

upfromsumdirt has precisely zero time for the politesse and deference that have
congealed around officially sanctioned poetry. Knowing such congelation to be full of
etymological contraband and foisted myth, he seeks to find new or occulted flows in
the blood, to imagine and inhabit a space characterized not by an agreed-upon
imaginary of ‘blackness’, but by an authentic chroma that reclaims stolen origins at
the same time as it kicks against perduring violence. By turns sinuously toothsome
and forthrightly pungent,
To Emit Teal seethes with a visionary witzelsucht that is
deadly “serious”. The book's dedicatee, Emmett Till, presides silently throughout as a
searing and indignant reminder—but also as a promise, a vital exudation, of which
only the bravest poems, like these ones, can ever be worthy.

                                      —Colin Leemarshall, poet & critic
Poems by