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Let It Be Broke: Poems

(Four Way Books Coming in 2020)

This book bridges intellect and ecstasy, miracle and disaster, Rukeyser and Rhianna. It’s powered by some wondrous concoction of language, politics, and blood. Ed Pavlić is doing what he’s always done. His poems sing with the scale of a Homeric epic; they drift with the existential perceptions of a Joyce novel; they argue with the fever and fight of a Baldwin essay.  Let It Be Broke delves, demands, and delights.

-- Terrance Hayes

What does it mean to belong, to whom, and how? How does race, geography, music(s) embed a psyche? How can the interstitial seem revolutionary—well LET IT BE BROKE brings up these questions in a language that implodes vernacular and erupts in lyricism—the expected is often disrupted by Ed Pavlić in this meditation on race, racism, code switching, America’s violent history. Pavlić joins his literary and cultural forbears such as James Baldwin and Adrienne Rich in this examination of America’s racial paradox along with Rihanna, Prince, and Kendrick Lamar. He makes in this difficult work a language that is necessary if this nation is to ever claim ideas that bind its citizens other than ones based on hatred and privilege. LET IT BE BROKE style is fragmentary, incantory, and emotionally dangerous—as he looks at the very broken psychic and physical landscape of America. And yet, he brings (as is said in gospel music) home a common notion at book’s end: “me: yes that’s exactly what I mean by us dust”.

-- Patricia Spears Jones

Another Kind of Madness: A Novel

(Milkweed Editions spring 2019)

"Reader beware. You imagine you hold a book in your hands, but it is a song, a rhythm of words and phrases that shudder the soul, and you will wander with its wanderers, and every few minutes you will need to put the book down to hear again what you have just read. It is not enough that Chicago, Lamu Town--midwestern America, coastal Kenya--and other worlds shift and shimmer and suck you into the madness the book proposes, but you will depart the text with its lyrics ringing in your heart."

-- Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

"Ed Pavlić's Another Kind of Madness is a full-bodied literary achievement bustling with sweat, regret and sound. Pavlić guides his language and characters into holes, onto planes and through doors I've never read or imagined. Pavlić's narrative audacity and descriptive skill make every sentence and scene in Another Kind of Madness equal parts sorrow song, blues, funk and of course jazz. I've not read a novel in recent history that absolutely blurs, bruises and complicates the space between mourning and morning. I am wonderfully devastated by the soul, scope, and execution of Another Kind of Madness and thoroughly inspired by this new kind of novel that is as at once wholly innovative and in deep conversation with so many Black American literary traditions."

-- Kiese Laymon

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"We been on trial for a long time. Another name for that trial is the history of poetry, where music is element and archive, inhabitant and venue, at and in and in defiance of the bitter end. Maybe music is a court that records itself, or an open set of broken characters defying portraiture. Black history is the history of poetry, wherein the line between "live flesh & dead meat" is fine. Ed Pavlić walks that line with dispossessive abandon, dispersed in groundedness like Charlie Haden or William Parker. In Live At The Bitter End, music's immanent critique of judgement telling itself the terrible and beautiful and terrible story of our modernity, which is not ours, Pavlić lets the sentence pass away."

-- Fred Moten 

More than a quarter-century after his death, James Baldwin remains an unparalleled figure in American literature and African-American cultural politics. In Who Can Afford to Improvise? Ed Pavlić offers an unconventional, lyrical, and accessible meditation on the life, writings, and legacy of James Baldwin and their relationship to the lyric tradition in black music, from gospel and blues to jazz and R&B. Based on unprecedented access to private correspondence, unpublished manuscripts and attuned to a musically inclined poet’s skill in close listening, Who Can Afford to Improvise? frames a new narrative of James Baldwin’s work and life. The route retraces the full arc of Baldwin’s passage across the pages and stages of his career according to his constant interactions with black musical styles, recordings, and musicians.

"Let's Let That Are Not Yet: INFERNO arrives right on time while managing, in its depth and breadth, to be timeless, presenting an indelible example of what poetry might look and sound like when it strives to engage critically with our contemporary world. Reverberating with a lyric form and flow grounded in the backbeats of hiphop, jazz's improvisatory play and R&B's soulful truth telling, and fully conversant with multiple traditions -- from Shakespeare through (Po-) PoMO and popular culture     -- these poems put the political back in poetics and poetry back in the news."

-- John Keene

"'There are places, spectrums of experience, human geographies, invisible to the human eye; you see them with your life,' writes Ed Pavlić in his big-hearted and mesmerizing new book."

-- Khaled Mattawa

"These remarkable poems are in conversation with us: our culture, our history, our ghosts. Even after enraptured multiple readings, I am incapable of succinctly praising this poet's immense talent and this new book's urgent, beautiful complexities." 

-- Terrance Hayes

"Ever since I discovered Ed Pavlić's poetry, I find myself measuring other authors against the steady stream of his voice, and the heart and politics one finds in his short and long lines -- the very sound of freedom.

-- Hilton Als

"These poems don't prove, but play with the fundamental suspicion that ethics and erotics are one. It's a tune we need to hear: one that lulls where sleep rightly beckons, and one that wakes us exactly where it is we must be awake.

-- Dan Beachy-Quick

"What if, Pavlić asks without asking, the War on Terror is also a war for America, between America, of America. What if this is the scream of a nation in a psychic crisis, a scream that bounces back at itself, increasingly louder....Not quite prose, not really a travel book, we move in poetic, photographic, and metaphysical space -- the words create their own human country and allow us to inhabit Pavlić's question. He has built one of those giant dangerous worlds poets and writers sometimes forget it is our job to make."

-- Binyavanga Wainaina

"Ed Pavlić's tribute to Donny Hathaway is stunning. Pavlić writes the way Hathaway sang. Can you hear it? Terror and joy ride the wave together. This is a song, sung over a song, sung over another song and another, until it finds expression through a strange angel of a human."


-- Joy Harjo

"Donny Hathaway traced the lonely line between gospel and the blues and tried to tell us that 'Someday We'll All Be Free,' though in the end he was perhaps unable to believe it himself. Pavlić's compelling meditation on Hathaway allows us to see how grace can grow in the cracks of city sidewalks and redemption may catch us even when we leap from its grasp."


-- Timothy B. Tyson

"The tension in Ed Pavlić's poems is a language-cable wrought to swing you out over unnerving spaces, let you see and hear what they really hold, and bring you back up more alive than you were before. Dialogic, dangerous, this is a poetics of body and soul, music to listen to with all five senses."

-- Adrienne Rich

"Labors Lost Left Unfinished perfects Ed Pavlić's sharp eye for popular culture and history. This collection is like an alluvial fan that draws everything to a lyrical moment, to a reckoning. There's a beauty embodied in this poet's straightforward journey."

--Yusef Komunyakaa

"This is the best book on African-American modernism in many years. Original and compelling, it will establish itself as a classical study and will remain a central point of reference in discussion of the twentieth-century African-American literature." 

-- Craig Werner

"A fully conceived book, speaking as a whole from the first lines to the last... Mr. Pavlić has listened closely to our most profound American art, the blues and jazz, and that music has not only helped him achieve poetic form but allowed him to explore a mesh of experience extraneous to literary theories. He is, doubtless, aware of such theories, but the voices in his poems flow from a denser space, having  penetrated a denser reality, returning via the imagination and its many discontents.... This is intimate and soulful work, breathing, brushing, and tonguing its instrument."

-- Adrienne Rich