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THE BONES BENEATH captures what it means to be American, Southern, diasporan, what it means to belong and not to belong, and finding many ways home. It transports readers across place and time, focusing on race and racism, health and healing, Africa and America, and mysticism and incantations. The poems call us to remember the histories we are coaxed to forget and opens pathways to understand our shared humanity. You will not leave this work without being changed and without understanding how and why there is hope for us to be better.
Poetry. African & African American Studies. Women's Studies.
”Sheila Smith McKoy’s THE BONES BENEATH is a stunning collection that whispers, wails, and yells. In her inescapable incantatory voice, readers are transported to real worlds—from North Carolina to Ghana—and to the imaginary worlds of ever after. This book is a remembrance of departures and returns by a poet who is ‘the one who would come home.’ Smith McKoy summons ancestors and ultimately finds what was lost. These poems are the most brilliant portals. They are ‘the sun splitting through the blinds.’” – Jenny Sadre-Orafai
”Sheila Smith McKoy writes of ancestry, family, and mother’s love, as well as love for the motherland. THE BONES BENEATH speaks a free language for the collective’s dream of freedom. Here is a compass and guidepost to orient ourselves on the daily walk to a more liberated existence. This collection is an offering…the balm of something akin to wisdom. A gift not simply for us, but for our children’s children.” – Freddy Gutierrez
Sheila Smith McKoy earned her BA at North Carolina State University, her MA at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and her PhD at Duke University. An award- winning poet, fiction writer, and filmmaker, she is the recipient of the 2020 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Prize in poetry and co-author of One Window's Light: A Haiku Collection, a collaboration of five Black poets in celebration of the haiku tradition. She has written, produced, directed or served as executive producer for four documentaries: St Agnes: The Untold Story (2012), Opening Doors: The Lives and Legacies of Dr. Lawrence M. Clark and Dr. Augustus M. Witherspoon (2013), WLLE: A Voice of the Community (Co- Executive Producer, 2015), and Luwero: A Convesation about War, Peace and Gender (2017). She served as editor of Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora for nine years, 2006 - 2015. Smith McKoy has authored or edited several scholarly books, including When Whites Riot: Writing Race and Violence in American and South African Cultures (2001), The Elizabeth Keckley Reader a two-volume series (2016 and 2017), Recovering the African Feminine Divine: Yemenja Rising, and Teaching Literature and Writing in Prisons (forthcoming 2024). A trained mediator, Smith McKoy specializes in restorative justice practices.