Praise for Brief Black Candles
"In Brief Black Candles, Lydia Valentine attends, with passionate velocity, to questions of survivability, remembrance and the creative art of living a fully human life, even in contexts and conditions that work against that what-it-could-be. 'We wade in these systemic waters,' Valentine writes, 'trying to have the breath to live...' Through measures of syntax that graph breathing to line breaks, reading becomes a mode of witness. But that's not always enough: 'You think you can see. Here, touch me.' Haptic, revolutionary and unflinching, this is a powerful debut collection by a poet who does not, and cannot, 'in this time-/ in this place-', look away."
"In her debut collection, Lydia Valentine interrogates and remembers. 'I keep my ghosts close,' she writes, 'to know who I am.' And she knows who she is. With Brief Black Candles, Valentine names what, and who, must be named. It is her poet’s work to do so. She witnesses, from within her own body, the work of survival and visibility, of accounting for all children and answering for each violence. Valentine explores the ways we touch one another and the spaces between us. 'The barrier between/ us was built by your hands.' She speaks the harms we have done; she calls us to the work of repair. 'I can’t/ Reasonably understand why everyone/Isn’t running through the streets, screaming.' Here you will find wounds and loss. Candles extinguished, burning and drowning. Young men turned into symbols. But you will also find new and bursting life, 'stronger than any sea, any fear.' You will discover the 'swollen berry promise' of love, you will be reminded of wisdom earned in pain, 'unless it’s hurting, I don’t remember what to avoid.'"
author of rough house
"Brief Black Candles is hauntingly beautiful. Valentine weaves a text that is rich in sensory, place
and imagery, She forces life to explain itself, the grief, the sting of love, lust, and family. She
demands answers, calling them, you and us to walk through the museums of our minds, reckon
with our ghosts, embrace our angels and be our own crooked superheroes."
Poet Laureate for the city of Tacoma 2017-2019
author of The Art of Naming My Pain
"In Brief Black Candles Lydia Valentine writes, 'I keep my ghosts close to know who I am.' Sounded in this note, grief and hope, life and death, dark and light— are each dispelled from their assigned binaries and winged, line by line, towards the more nuanced, more dissonant texture of a deeply human, intimately witnessed way of being in our world. This debut collection, written in the most truthful key available to language, uses poetic form and precise repetition to give shape, then echo, to questions of family, loss, justice and survival, seated in the frame of an America that is a long way from post-racial—the America of today. Valentine writes, 'It was sundown all morning. / It was raining / and it was going to rain.' In this work, we are not spared from bitter truth, nor from stubborn hope; we are given pain with love, love with pain. We are offered the heartwork of a poet committed, deeply, to 'tomorrow, and tomorrow/ and tomorrow.'"