You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened by Arisa White
About the Author:
Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the author of the chapbooks Black Pearl and Post Pardon, the second of which was adapted into an opera, as well as the full-length collections Hurrah’s Nest and A Penny Saved. Arisa has received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from Headlands Center for the Arts, Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Rose O’Neill Literary House, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is a 2013-2014 recipient of an Investing in Artists grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation and a BFA faculty advisor at Goddard College in Vermont.
Angular, smart, and fearless, Arisa White’s newest collection takes its titles from words used internationally as hate speech against gays and lesbians, reworking, re-envisioning, and re-embodying language as a conduit for art, love, and understanding. You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened works through intersectional encounters with gender, identity, and human barbarism, landing deftly and defiantly in beauty.
Praise for You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened:
Swiss army knives, scuttling crabs, pinball machines, HIV/AIDS, the West Side Highway, daisy breasts, racial slurs, kitchen sink scorch marks, and mustangs running through veins: through all the kaleidescoping nouns of White’s new collection, the starring roles are played by lust and roving hands and lovers and beloveds. These poems are nearly unblurbable: delicate yet tough, visceral and cerebral, innocent yet experienced, loving and longing, grotesque and hopeful: “…I drag our placenta behind us. Together/ can be restored with a blink.” Come for the lyrical mastery, stay for the god-level Eros. The third full-length collection by one of America’s most promising poets, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened is required reading for anyone who’s ever loved, been loved, or forgotten how.
—Amy King, The Missing Museum
Arisa White’s You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened is a book whose true engine is love, and whose every poem, in all kinds of ways, reaches toward love. That in itself is astonishing, and to be praised. But add the formal playfulness, the rich music, the storytelling, and, perhaps especially, the sense of justice and humanity, and you’ll realize you’re holding a truly beautiful book in your hands.
—Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
Arisa White sharpens her words against this unpredictable world we live in, with the poems in You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened. In verse that is exhilarating and unexpected, White writes of race, of women loving women, of these all too human bodies we wear, of cities, of landscape. You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened is an assured and memorable book of poetry, one that provokes thought as much as it provokes a depth of feeling.
—Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist
Arisa White’s You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened makes us sweat, reflect, cry, and discover. With a deft utilization of prose poetry, lyric essay, and verse, White delivers a guide to learning our freedoms. You will probably have to reconfigure your definition of beauty after you read this book.
—Willie Perdomo, The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon
There are not enough books like or near Arisa White’s new collection, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, addressing what it is to be young, Lesbian and Queer and Black and tender and unapologetic and erotic. In these poems, I hear Pat Parker’s wit and challenge, and the insistence of Audre Lorde demanding that we look, listen, celebrate and change.
—Pamela Sneed, Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom Than Slavery
Arisa White ups the ante with this bold and visceral collection of striking lyrics, bold and honest. It’s a kind of song, truth be told, and these poems truth indeed be tolled.
—Kazim Ali, Sky Ward
Whether remembering a neglected friend or experiencing a sensual touch, Arisa White’s poems will take your breath away. They nestle into rich language then burst up and out like birds taking flight; so close you feel their heat and wings inside you. She traverses many landscapes, both physical and emotional, sometimes evoking a melancholy longing, at other times an eager passion. In either case, these are exquisite, finely crafted poems that are irresistible.
—Jewelle Gomez, The Gilda Stories: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition
This is what I’m talking about. The fierce truth, the gorgeous loneliness, the late-night bravery and the tender, tender heart. It’s the poetry of Arisa White and it’s divine in every sense. Let’s all talk about it.
—Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Arisa White’s smart, angular, precocious and sexy third collection is filled with lithe anecdotes and disturbed resonances of how to negotiate a full life in everyday environs. These crafted, knowing poems put us in the middle of the room of living a realized, intelligent life of the senses. White’s attentive word substitutions and range of organized forms refreshes the reader at each page. To live freely, observantly as a politically astute, sensually perceptive Queer Black woman is to be risk taker, at risk, a perceived danger to others and even dangerous to/as oneself. White writes: I shake this heart to get the last coin out, the last folded bill where you wrote “Do Not Spend.” We feel that last coin drop, like the last mic of the MC. Throwing her caution to the wind, you should spend: spend time with the tender exchanges in these poetic jewels.
—Tracie Morris, handholding: 5 kinds