Beating the Graves


Beating the Graves

Tsitsi Ella Jaji

African Poetry Book Series

114 pages


March 2017


$15.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2017


$15.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2017


$15.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The poems in Tsitsi Ella Jaji’s Beating the Graves meditate on the meaning of living in diaspora, an experience increasingly common among contemporary Zimbabweans. Vivid evocations of the landscape of Zimbabwe filter critiques of contemporary political conditions and ecological challenges, veiled in the multiple meanings of poetic metaphor. Many poems explore the genre of praise poetry, which in Shona culture is a form of social currency for greeting elders and peers with a recitation of the characteristics of one’s clan. Others reflect on how diasporic life shapes family relations.

The praise songs in this volume pay particular homage to the powerful women and gender-queer ancestors of the poet’s lineage and thought. Honoring influences ranging from Caribbean literature to classical music and engaging metaphors from rural Zimbabwe to the post-steel economy of Youngstown, Ohio, Jaji articulates her own ars poetica. These words revel in the utter ordinariness of living globally, of writing in the presence of all the languages of the world, at home everywhere, and never at rest.

Author Bio

Tsitsi Ella Jaji is an associate professor of African and African American studies at Duke University. She is the author of Africa in Stereo: Modernism, Music, and Pan-African Solidarity


“An outstanding offering. Forceful. Fresh. And not afraid. This offering shows Tsitsi Jaji to be an explorer of the textures of lived experience with admirable clarity of vision and expression, in short, a poet deep to the marrow of her sensibility.”—Keorapetse Kgositsile, South Africa’s poet laureate

“The gravel and gravitas of Beating the Graves lies in its ferociously polyglot density. Peep that diction, peeps! As this moving book reminds us in its deep listening to our noisy dead (diaspora), any border can be crossed by sound.”—Christian Campbell, author of Running the Dusk

“Packed with a stunning, virtuosic range of occasion and disposition (praise, imprecation, prayer, play, to name only a few), Beating the Graves is an auspicious debut volume by a formidable poet-musician-scholar.”—Nathaniel Mackey, author of Blue Fasa 

Table of Contents

The Book of VaNyemba    
Praise Song for Patricia Jabbeh Wesley    
Song of Yobe    
To Praise the Hornbill    
Deep English    
The Go-Betweens    
Family Trees.     
Holy Departure (A Berceuse)     
Dust to Dust    
Document for U.S. Citizens Who Have Never Applied for a Visa and Have Had It Up to Here with Those Loud Aliens Who Go On and On about Some Letter    
Blunt Balm    
Matobo Hills    
Philosophical Investigations    
Limpopo Blues    
Wait until the Leader Clears the Lunar    
A Prelude to a Kiss    
My Funny Valentine    
Small Consolation    
Our Embrace    
Carnaval: A Suite    
To Bless the Memory of Tamir Rice    

Also of Interest