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Distributed for Omnidawn Publishing, Inc.

Devonte Travels the Sorry Route

Devonte, the eponymous subject of the poems in Devonte Travels the Sorry Route, has a gift: he can travel across space and time. This extraordinary quality brings Devonte into contact with a broad array of events and phenomena from black history and culture. Unlike most of us, who perceive of history as a sequence of fleeting events, Devonte is able to experience all of his diverse travels to varied historical epochs and places simultaneously, and in doing so is able to become a “stalker of history,” chasing down the elusive narratives that have been erased or ignored by the building of empires and the destruction of ecosystems.
            As fantastical as this account seems, in these poems, T.J. Anderson III captures a critical aspect of the ways identity is formed through community and collective memory, particularly among the peoples of the African diaspora. The way the words expand across the page enacts this polyvocal coalescing, and the blank space in between evokes the vast oceans that first separated and continue to resonate in the collective imagination of the Black community. At the same time that he relates the difficulty of crossing vast expanses of time and space to connect with our history, in these gripping poems Anderson proposes that the past is never far off—in fact, like Devonte, it lives in our own personalities and experiences today.

88 pages | 1 halftone | 6 x 9 | © 2019


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"The result is a visceral encapsulation of the black experience throughout history—and how that experience reverberates through all history—and an extraordinary character to meet. . . . Anderson really does have a flame in his hand. A strong addition to poetry collections."

Barbara Hoffert | Library Journal

"Drawing on a 'cartography of allusions' from Egyptian, Native American, Vodou, jazz, and Anansian sources, and in creating a resonant journey that moves from Africa to the New World, from ancient worlds to our multifaceted contemporary world, T.J. Anderson III explores what it means to be 'a stalker of history' and writes with authenticity, mythic imagination, and verve. With a culminating initiation ceremony that lets a story come and lets it go, Anderson writes in compelling rhythms and delineates how 'writing' is 'but a struggle to employ / the limits of speech.' Devonte Travels the Sorry Route is a singular accomplishment that extends the range and enriches the depth of contemporary American poetry."

Arthur Sze, Judge of the Omnidawn Open

"Devonte Travels the Sorry Route works at the 'limits of speech,' syncopating the page to create not so much a textual work as an experience—of language.  Language harnessed by history and histories, by myth, mathematics and alchemy, by pain and loss and, above all, by a formal control that allows these ideas to compete yet work together.  The downward trajectory, the 'sorry route,' of Devonte, the anti- or un-hero, follows a path that appears, in these times, tragically inevitable for the many like him; a path which drives the narrative and provides the structure around which Anderson scores his poetry so as to countervail that overwhelming tragic trope.  Here, in the interstices of time, in the shadow of failed empires past and present, we confront a poetry that wails and mourns like an angry jazz saxophone, weeps in the quiet blue hours, hips and hops across oceans, blasts through all that is impenetrable to shuffle off the yoke of history, crisscrossing and braiding the hidden beauty of lives that insist and resist.  From jazz explosion to flattened blues notes, from the quiet refrain of ancestral laments to lyric couplets, Devonte Travels… leads the reader through time, as Ariadne, Anansi, Damballa, and Toussaint jostle each other.  At the journey’s end we are charged and changed and, despite Devonte’s “sorry route,” strangely made more humble, more willing to resist and yet more compassionate.  The un-heroism of Devonte becomes so much more admirable."

NourbeSe Philip, author of Zong!

"Devonte Takes the Sorry Route is T. J. Anderson III’s newest collection and one of his finest. This book-length conversation and masquerade in four sections, via the voice and vision of his alter ego Devonte, melds the contemporary and historical, fusing high lyricism and the vernacular to draw forth the ritual and spiritual from everyday language and life, charging every moment it explores with resonant depth and power. Drafting 'alchemic equations,' Anderson creates a series of vessels through which to re-see the world illuminated by his poetry’s singular 'vessels.'"

John Keene, author of Counternarratives


2019 Big Other Book Award for Poetry

"'What is writing but a struggle to employ / the limits of speech?' Devonte Travels the Sorry Route is rich with the lessons of that struggle.... These poems are poised— to borrow a motif of the collection — on the outer edge of language, history,consciousness. A fertile zone, and one that won’t reveal its full potential without fuller discussion between a community of readers."

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