A crucial book that calls for community, solidarity, and joy, even in—especially in—these dark days
In his debut work of nonfiction, award-winning poet Roger Reeves finds new meaning in silence, protest, fugitivity, freedom, and ecstasy. Braiding memoir, theory, and criticism, Reeves juxtaposes the images of an opera singer breaking the state-mandated silence curfew by singing out into the streets of Santiago, Chile, and a father teaching his daughter to laugh out loud at the planes dropping bombs on them in Aleppo, Syria. He describes the history of the hush harbor—places where enslaved people could steal away to find silence and court ecstasy, to the side of their impossible conditions. In other essays, Reeves highlights a chapter in Toni Morrison’s Beloved to locate common purpose between Black and Indigenous peoples; he visits the realities of enslaved people on McLeod Plantation, where some of the descendants of those formerly enslaved lived into the 1990s; and he explores his own family history, his learning to read closely through the Pentecostal church tradition, and his passing on of reading as a pleasure, freedom, and solace to his daughter, who is frightened the police will gun them down.
Together, these groundbreaking essays build a profound vision for how to see and experience the world in our present moment, and how to strive toward an alternative existence in intentional community underground. “The peace we fight and search for,” Reeves writes, “begins and ends with being still.”
About the Author
Roger Reeves is the author of two poetry collections, King Me and Best Barbarian. His essays have appeared in Granta, the Yale Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, and teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Stunning. . . . In a variety of pieces exploring race and legacy and community, Reeves captures the sorrows inherent in the way we live today even while keeping a keen eye toward opportunity for joy.”—Maris Kreizman, Vulture
“With this text, [Reeves] inclines toward his ideal of the ecstatic, defiantly daring to build the sort of life—intellectual and free—so easily denied to Black Americans. A cerebral, ruminative essay collection brimming with insight and vision.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Reeves’s trademark lyricism shines throughout, proving that he’s just as affecting in prose as in verse. This impresses.”—Publishers Weekly
“This is a gift of a book written by a poet with searing intelligence. . . . Dark Days builds with essays that are astonishing in their revelations as well as their forms. . . . Reeves contemplates the silence, the introspection necessary for eloquent responses to our increasingly frightening world.”—Denise Duhamel, Best American Poetry blog
“Reeves extends passion and profound vulnerability surrounding his experiences as a Black man and father. . . . These essays also ask readers to question how peace is experienced: is peace only obtainable on a massive scale, or can it be discovered in the pleasure of reading, in joyful songs of praise, or even in absolute silence?”—Library Journal
“Reeves uses a personal lens to access the overwhelming expansiveness of history. [His] prose is lyrical, poetic, and engrossing, and sure to appeal to fans of Hanif Abdurraqib and Michael Eric Dyson.”—Booklist
“Dark Days is a testament to Roger Reeves’s dazzling intellect and passion. His essays are soaring reflections on joy, ecstasy, and stillness as profound practices that fuel Black freedom and resistance. He loads every rift of his subjects with ore, as he pays generous attention to artists ranging from Zora Neale Hurston to OutKast to Michael K. Williams. Reeves’s declamations are riven with insights that have truly changed my way of thinking.”—Cathy Park Hong
“Pro tip: partake of the brilliance of Roger Reeves. Among other marvels, the essays in Dark Days challenge silences and attempted erasures with acuity, with eloquence, with a thunderous beating heart.”—Mitchell S. Jackson
“In this heady collection, Roger Reeves troubles history, steps out on faith, dances with the dead, locates his grandmother in a footnote, and finds a way to answer his daughter when she asks if the sirens are coming to kill her. All along, Reeves is close-reading poetry, music, fiction, and film and showing us what it means to be underground, to be ‘in and out of time.’”—Eula Biss