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Prelude to Bruise

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,789 ratings  ·  233 reviews
Prelude to Bruise is a song from a tightrope, balancing ecstatic existence and the chaos that always threatens to engulf a life on the margins. How do we reckon our past without being ravaged by it? How do we use people, their bodies, to express ourselves? Danger is everywhere in these poems, but never overwhelms them; the poet is always an anchor on the other side. And hi ...more
Paperback, 103 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Coffee House Press (first published August 18th 2014)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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 ·  1,789 ratings  ·  233 reviews

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Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
bookmarking this review here.


i need to say, first off, that poetry in english is really hard for me. i can do poetry in italian, but poetry in english, tough, man.

but a friend of mine agreed to read this with me, and the experience was intense. because saeed jones is nothing if not intense.

i'm writing this before reading any review at all, because i'm sure other people's reviews will intimidate me and push me to silence. here goes.

throat. the speak
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-6
6 out of 5.

I didn't exactly mean to survive myself.
-- "Post-Apocalyptic Heartbeat"

Because I follow Saeed on Twitter, I happened to see a tweet a little while back where he said "I'm really glad I didn't kill myself in 2011. It's good to still be here." and having read this collection... I suppose, all I can say is that I'm really glad, too. These poems are so full of power and emotion that they can be a little scary sometimes - a little intimidating - but they're not only some of the best poems
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
There are too many unforgettable poems and lines in Prelude to Bruise for me to give it anything but five stars. "Guernica on all fours." Guernica on all fours!

"Bloated with want, I'm the man who waits

for the moon to drown before I let the lake
grab my ankles & take me into its muddy mouth.

They say a city is at the bottom of all that water.
Oh, marauder. Make me a drink. I'm on my way."

"How the jasmine vine rests
its hands on the abandoned sill for a month,
then pulls itself into the cool dark."

Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, 2015
This book contains some of the most guttural and feelingful poetry I read this last couple of years.
It's a heavy book, that packs a lot of punch in little over 100 pages. Themes like gender, race, discrimination and growth bleed through the pages and will certainly make the reader need to breathe deeply after each poem.
This is a heavy book, but the kind of heavy that you'll feel thankful to read.
There's a lot of symbolism in these pages, which will for sure lead to a very personal interpretat
Naomi Jackson
Sep 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I held on to Prelude to Bruise for a month before I started reading it, knowing that once I started in, I wouldn't be able to stop. I read these poems in a fever, all in one sitting. The poems here are lovely, shot through with beauty, danger, and emotion of the highest order. This a book that made me wanted to write poetry again, both because the poems are gorgeously written and because, as Rigoberto Gonzalez has said of this book, "with impressive grace, Saeed Jones situates the queer black bo ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, aa-studies
My first immersive experience in a complete book of poetry in a loooooooong time. Very powerful with many moments of amazingly beautiful language and images (all the more so because describing sometimes very ugly scenes of racism and violence); some (deceptively) simple, and others much more complex and layered, elusive and impenetrable - but no less enjoyable for it. Recurring themes and images that made the journey from poem to poem, and from section to section, tell a larger story.
Imen  Benyoub
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa
Eclipse of my third life..

Hunger is who we are
under a black lacquered moon.
Undone in his flashlit arms, is this my body anymore?
Red Chinese kite in the night of my throat,
no one can see.
Unpaved road that veers
into fragments of bone, a drive only he knows.
Spine stitched to shadow’s edge, I lose my head
to grass when his want walks
the length of me, king of my beheaded kingdom.
Stars are just jewelry stolen from graves, he sighs,
pressing me into loam, amaryllis shoots
already owning my dark. I’ll wake
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
In 2005, I read Richard Siken's poetry collection, 'Crush.' I have read and re-read this collection many times over the years. I have a copy with me almost everywhere I go. And, finally, a new collection of poems that feels so close to Siken. Jones' poems are beautiful and heartbreaking and powerful and smooth and loud.
Laila (BigReadingLife)
Powerful, visceral poems of desire, longing, and fear.
C.E. G
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
LOVED. This is tied with Citizen: An American Lyric, Nox, and Fire Shut Up in My Bones for the best things I've read this year. The poetry reminded me a little of the music of Perfume Genius.


The front door kicked open
to a sky of windblown herons, pewter
wings bent back

by dark gust. If I were your blood,
I would fear this feathered dusk,
but I've always wanted to be dangerous.

The air grabs my lapel, rough-tongued
gale, and drags me free.


I won't be forgiven
for what I've made
Writer's Relief
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
In his beautifully crafted first book, PRELUDE TO BRUISE, Saeed Jones wrangles with the often-harsh reality of being a minority in America. Jones examines grief, race, sexuality, gender, and relationships with confidence and consistency. Each poem has its own purpose, and each one questions the complexities of the human heart and the human experience. What is most interesting about PRELUDE TO BRUISE is that the collection is framed entirely through the lens of identity. This connection seamlessl ...more
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's rare when I come across a book that makes me want to quit writing poetry because it accomplishes everything I have ever wanted to do in a poem or a collection. This book is one of them.

The intimacy, the questions of identity, the finding of a voice, the loss of a voice, the struggles with the body, with becoming, the struggles with loss and love all make this book so magical. There is a lyricism that I can only wish to one day obtain. The imagery is ripe.

I can't even properly express how m
Timothy Volpert
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"They say a city is at the bottom of all that water.
Oh, marauder. Make me a drink. I’m on my way."

Some beautiful poems here, great insight into the experience of being black and queer in America. My only real complaint is that the poems get a little samey after a while, I think mostly due to how many of them follow the same couplet-heavy format. The long prose-poem (I forget the title, don't have the book with me as I write this) is a little clunky in places, but by the end of it I was hooked. A
Bob Lopez
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If I could give it ten stars I would. From that last poem this line kills: "A bare lightbulb shines above them like a lynched moon." The language is simple, smooth, feels effortless but utterly destructive. Brilliant.
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I devoured this, in two sittings only because I was interrupted the first time. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Bold.
Laura I.
Wish I could give this more than 5 stars. Took it out from the library but will be buying it immediately.
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
raw & bloody & very much centered around being gay and black

tw violence, sexual abuse
Tanuj Solanki
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In my extremely limited reading of poems, I have not read a better collection.
Isaiah Vianese
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
In this beautiful collection, Saeed Jones explores growing up as a queer black man. Much of the book is about pain and loss--abuse, betrayal, racism, and homophobia. These lyrical poems are grounded in desire, erotic pleasure, and physical confrontations. A lovely, moving book.
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Picked this up after watching the Yale University panel on writing trauma. Beautiful, feverish, honest. Makes me want to try to get better at poetry myself.
Nov 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm a fan of poetry, but it is with great hesitation that I dip my toe into the world of writing a poetry review. While I've read a fair amount of it and studied it over the years, I still feel woefully under qualified to offer an informed opinion. Shouldn't one be able to scan a line, identify a form, etc. etc. etc. before one can weigh in on the merits of a particular poem or collection?

In lieu of that knowledge, all that is left for me is to offer an emotional response to reading the work, a
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The poems in this book are simply amazing and some of the best poetry I have read to date. So subtle but so powerful at the same time. Each line grips your heart and and leaves it bleeding on the page. You can feel the words come to life as you try to breathe through the emotions his words evoke deep within you. There is not a space or crack that he doesn't touch. It's real honest raw emotion that strips you of every inhibition and leaves you vulnerable. It's the naked truth. I absolutely loved ...more
Myles Curtis
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
some poems reminded me of little richard's autobiography: the secret scenes he discovers growing up black, queer, and wild in the unmapped sexual underground / wonderland of the rural south. the series of poems about his mother's dresses and his boyhood drag - ! but jones also has whitman's sense of sexual celebration and shamelessness (& sternums, & swimming with boys). the grown-up poems chart these sensualities and traumas as they explore a larger geography of bodies and intensities. ...more
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2014
I consider myself pretty well-read, but I haven't read an actual complete book of poetry (versus an anthology) since college, which was 15 years ago. Is this what they're all like these days -- mystical, aching, hot, flawlessly emotionally choreographed? If so, then I promise not to wait another 15 years before experiencing my next time.
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to have him come speak in my poetry class and hear him speak about the poems and their backstories. His reading of the poems was incredible and the stories even more so. His explanations were very honest and it was crazy for me to actually meet a poet whose work I read and listen to him read them. This book is amazing and I love it!!!!
Moriah Pearson
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If poetry is to make us feel, then there is seldom little poetry more pure than what Saeed pummeled skillfully, gracefully, and violently into Prelude to Bruise. Time after time, this book leaves me gasping, dancing, sobbing, and crawling out of the bathtub just to catch my breath before opening the pages again -- and I always open the pages again.
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I get shout-happy when I read these poems; they are the gospel; they are the good news of the sustaining power of imagination, tenderness, and outright joy.

The numerous awards and honors this book has received acknowledge the author's originality and the necessity of Saeed Jones' unrelenting voice of witness in the world.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
it's not often I have poem envy but I did repeatedly while reading this moving collection. Read if only to explore the many permutations of the loaded word 'boy'. Jones will bruise you but you will marvel at the amazing vulnerability of men afterwards. One of the best things I read in 2014.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
The beginning was PERFECT, like ABSOLUTELY GROUNDBREAKING AND PERFECT and then it ended up pretty well, but not the same. BUT HOLY SHIT TO EVERY SINGLE POEM IN THE BEGINNING, THOSE POEMS CONTAIN MULTITUDES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started writing down favorites, and realized it was a large portion of this entire collection, so I really must say this is a new favorite in its entirety.

Particular poems: "Pretending to Drown" "Boy at Edge of Woods" "Boy in a Whalebone Corset" "Don't let the sunset on you" and the entirety of section 5.

"Your grief will be useful one day, says no one." (Highway 407)

"I saw us breathing on the other side of after.
But a blackout is not night; orange-bottled dreams are not sleep." (Postap
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Saeed Jones is the author of the memoir How We Fight for Our Lives, winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, the 2020 Stonewall Book Award/Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award, and a 2020 Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of the poetry collection Prelude to Bruise, winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Aw ...more

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39 likes · 14 comments

The only regret is that I waited
longer than a breath
to scatter the sun's reflection
with my body.

New stars burst upon the water
when you pulled me in.

On the shore, our clothes
begged us to be good boys again.

Every stick our feet touched
a snapping turtle, every shadow
a water moccasin.

Excuses to swim closer to one another.

I sank into the depths to see you
as the lake saw you: cut in half
by the surface, taut legs kicking,
the rest of you sky.

Suddenly still, a clear view
of what you knew I wanted
to see.

When I resurfaced, slick grin,
knowing glance; you pushed me
back under.

I pretended to drown,
then swallowed you whole.”

Her blue dress is a silk train is a river
is water seeps into the cobblestone steps of my sleep, is still raining
is monsoon brocade, is winter stars stitched into puddles
is goodbye in a flooded, antique room, is goodbye in a room of crystal bowls
and crystal cups, is the ring-ting-ring of water dripping from the mouths
of crystal bowls and crystal cups, is the Mississippi river is a hallway, is leaks
like tears from windowsills of a drowned house, is windows open to waterfalls
is a bed is a small boat is a ship, is a currant come to carry me in its arms
through the streets, is me floating in her dress through the streets
is the moon sees me floating through the streets, is me in a blue dress
out to sea, is my mother is a moon out to sea.”
More quotes…