Blessed Are the Peacemakers
Winner of the 2020 Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize
At once interested in the cyclical nature of domestic dysfunction and what we do when secrets of buried harm come to light, Blessed Are the Peacemakers asks what it means to make peace in the wake of intrafamilial violence and child sexual assault. These poems explore the ways the truth is often hidden behind layers of bleach and shame, and the ways we fail survivors by dismissing their stories and tolerating their abusers.
Filled with elegies to the people who have been murdered by state violence, racism, and anti-Blackness in the United States, Blessed Are the Peacemakers interrogates the lengths and limitations of grace. Brionne Janae examines what it means to survive—particularly as a Black girl, woman, queer person, or human—and uses self-portraiture to explore how familial and communal trauma plagues our mental health. How do we survive the grief of the past and present without becoming numb to or consumed by it? How do we remember, despite our pain, to enjoy our bodies and our lives while we still have them?
“If ‘we are nothing more than heirloom seeds / falling into the dirt and blooming,’ then Blessed Are the Peacemakers forces us to consider which birds of hell and paradise fly from the soil of family and nation. The speakers of Janae’s magnificent garden merge memories and insights with the death, deception, and desire we often lack the courage to face. The wonder of this arresting collection is how in reckoning with legacies of violence, estrangement, and love we ‘learn, just a little, about peace.’” —Ama Codjoe, author of Bluest Nude