A Poet of the Dying Years
Padlock IconThis article is only a portion of the full article. If you are already a premium subscriber please login. If you are not a premium subscriber, please subscribe for access to all of our content.

Published in: March-April 2024 issue.

Collected Works
by Assotto Saint
Edited by Michele Karlsberg
Nightboat Books
392 pages, $22.95

HOLDING a volume of a writer’s collected works can feel like holding their life in your hands. This is perhaps even more viscerally true when the person is someone like Assotto Saint, who had a brief but intense and productive life, dying in 1994 from AIDS-related complications at the age of 36.

            Saint was a founding member of the Blackheart Collective, and published numerous collections of his own poetry, editing two anthologies, notably The Road Before Us: 100 Black Gay Poets (1991). Sacred Spells is a collection of exemplary poems, essays, stories, plays, and even some performance pieces. The plays and performance pieces are hard to judge without the presence of Saint himself, who would undoubtedly have made a great impact, based on his writings and the testimonials of friends and fellow artists included in the book. But it is the poetry—and the editor claims that Saint viewed himself as a poet first and foremost—that constitutes his lasting legacy, being at times fierce, angry, tender, and poignant. It is poetry that bristles with indignation even as it aches with loss and sorrow.

To continue reading this article, please LOGIN or SUBSCRIBE

Dale Boyer’s new book is Columbus in the New World: Selected Poems.