Vievee Francis was born in West Texas. She earned an MFA from the University of Michigan in 2009, and she received a Rona Jaffe Award the same year. She is the author of Forest Primeval (TriQuarterly Books, 2015), winner of the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award; Horse in the Dark (Northwestern University Press, 2012), winner of the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize; and Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University Press, 2006). The poet Adrian Matejka describes her poems as “revelations—of memory, of dust, of the cotton and marginalia strung together to make a history.” The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and the Kresge Foundation, Francis currently serves as an editor for Callaloo and teaches English and creative writing at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
from Forest Primeval
But I was never the light of my father’s eyes, or any
other brother’s (that deep-husked choir), so there
was no height from which to fall. I began here
in the proverbial bottom:
undertow, base from which one may rise but briefly,
like the failing horse knowing it must now race, must
tear out of its rusted gate, must further tear
the pleuritic lining of its lungs, let its tongue loll
ugly from the side
of its mouth. Have you seen such a thing?
Its brown coat salted with sweat as it lunges
forward and lunges again, forcing its measure
not up but out, knowing its ankles could fold
under such weight, its nose opened
into another being, sucking and snorting
the only thing it takes within that does not judge it,
the air. The sweet, sweet air
as it makes its way around a curve that might kill it,
that assuredly will kill it. Do you see me there?
Of course not.
I’m over here. Here,
in this hollow running for my low life. O Father,
for the rub of a hand over my back. O Brothers,
for the gold-leaf wreath that might have meant
a stroke of my calf, for that, I stretch these legs to breaking,
I wrench this belly’s hull, dark
as all alluvial things are. Lucifer’s is a common story, a
child’s boogeyman. What should frighten you is this:
imagine what he would be had he not fallen, had he never
known the elusive light at all, never been privy to the chords
of God’s neck, if he, in fact, doubted such things,
believing only in what anguishes and writhes, trusting
nothing more than what soils his hands.
From Forest Primeval (Triquarterly, 2015)
- “This Is My Name: A Conversation with Vievee Francis.” (new window)The LA Review of Books. 14 February 2018.
- “Toward a New Antipastoral.” (new window) The Boston Review. 12 October 2017.
- “Barrelhouse Reviews: Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis.” Barrelhouse. 11 August 2016.
Readings & Talks Featuring Shane McCrae and Vievee Francis (new window) | February 9, 2021