Francine J. Harris

Francine J. Harris’ most recent book of poetry is Here is the Sweet Hand (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020), winner of the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, said “no list of topics or themes can capture the erotic heat, imaginative breadth, and syntactical daring of this poet's voice.”Her second book, play dead (Alice James, 2017) won a LAMBDA Literary Award, a Publishing Triangle Award, and was nominated for the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry.

Harris' debut collection, Allegiance (Wayne State University Press, 2012) was a finalist for both the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award. Her poetry has appeared in many journals, including McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Poetry, Meridian, Indiana Review, Callaloo, and Boston Review. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts,the MacDowell Colony, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and Cave Canem.

Harris received her MFA from the University of Michigan, and was writer in residence at Washington University in St. Louis. She’s taught creative writing at University of Michigan and Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Originally from Detroit, she is currently associate professor of English at the University of Houston.

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The sea is so far from us now. Partly I think because we
are not softspoken desire. There are rude thoroughfares
and abandoned mines that brag. They gather and pile
with ruin and vacancy. It’s an accrual that is in me, it seems.
At best, a wetland. Beautiful and useless in the face of flood.
So that when we walk the perimeter, we can see the ground
starve and crack. But then fear of sinkhole is so self-important.
Truthfully, I am not enough to steer clear of. To fall in love again,
dear, reforested bund, is a matter of preservation. In your expert
opinion, will you tell me how to know you if I am forever meant
to leave you undisturbed. This will not save us, I’m afraid. A brownstone
for hummingbirds is shortsighted too, like picking out honeybees
from the dog’s mouth. Then blowing on her tiny hairs like a breeze.
Love, we can wish it were so; it does not make us fit to survive.


from Poem-a-Day, February 14, 2023 (