Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking
Distributed for Acre Books
Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking
In C. T. Salazar’s striking debut poetry collection, the speaker is situated in the tradition of Southern literature but reimagines its terrain with an eye on the South’s historic and ongoing violence. His restless relationship with religion (“a child told me there was a god / and because he was smiling, I believed him”) eventually includes a reclamation of the language of belief in the name of desire. “I felt myself become gospel in your hands,” the speaker tells his beloved. And, as the title poem asserts, a headless body “leaves more room for salvation.”
Though Salazar’s South is not a tender place, the book is a petition for tenderness, revealing in both place and people the possibilities for mercy, vulnerability, and wonder. The lyric I, as it creates an archive of experience, is not distanced from the poems’ subjects or settings, but deeply enmeshed in a tangled world. In poems with lush diction, ranging from a sonnet crown to those that explore the full field of the page, Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking seeks—and finds—where the divine resides: “Praise our hollow-bell bodies still ringing.”
78 pages | 6 x 9
"An immense tenderness underlies Salazar’s standout first collection. The poems probe the ever-presence of history, family, place, religion, and grief insisting on multidimensionality and the complicated ways the aforementioned entwine with us, for better and worse. . . . The collection left me thinking that perhaps everything lost—beliefs, people, strands of hair to a crow’s nest—might be returned or found, though in altered form, and in this way survive. . . . A gorgeous, open-hearted debut."
Library Journal, starred review
"C.T. Salazar calls his debut poetry collection 'the coming-of-age chronicle of a queer Latinx Southerner.' The book finds complexity, vulnerability, joy, and trauma in these identities, marveling at this striking juxtaposition. Salazar chronicles a tangled history with religion, as well as an enduring search for the spiritual and divine. Ultimately, Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking beautifully argues that the divine can be found in everyday people."
"Having a title that conjures disquieting and curious imagery, C.T. Salazar’s debut full-length collection of poems, Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking, sparks interest in a reader before the book is even opened. To say that these poems are gorgeous is both an understatement and a simplification of what is contained within the pages. In Salazar’s book, the reader is transported into a world encompassed with juxtaposition – harsh violence and decay against the hope of redemption and a hint of dream-like beauty. . . . Life is often cruel, and in Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking, Salazar doesn’t back away from this, but he gives us small glimpses of the ways life is also gentle. In this stunning debut, Salazar asks us to consider whether salvation is worth the sacrifice. He explores the idea of balancing dark with light. Yes, these are gorgeous poems that are often transcendent, and yes, they are wrapped in barbed wire, but they are worth returning to again and again."
The Poetry Question
"In his first full-length collection of poems, titled Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking, C.T. Salazar establishes his poetry within several distinct traditions—among them, the literature of the American South, the lyric mode, and the poetry of identity. The poems of this collection move simultaneously through a descriptive terrain and into emotional and spiritual inquiry."
Mississippi Books Page
"In Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking, C. T. Salazar crafts a personal mythology of biblical proportions. . . with Mississippi as the rural backdrop. . . . Through sonnets, contrapuntal poems, and expertly executed line breaks, Salazar reimagines sacred imagery. . . as well as perceptions of color and scale. . . . In these poems the Bible is not merely transposed into our modern life but is also a framework for a new and urgent awareness of faith, where faith is not what you believe but a way of reading the world. . . .What emerges is an understanding of the physical world as a living being full of spirit."
"C.T. Salazar has a way of pointing out the quietest moments and rendering them holy, especially in his latest poetry collection. . . . Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking is a masterclass in power, both in its language and in its intimacy."
Southern Review of Books