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with/holding

Poems

Chantal Gibson

In this follow-up to her award-winning debut collection, How She Read, Chantal Gibson delivers an unflinching critique of the representation of Blackness, past and present, in with/holding.

with/holding is a collection of genre-blurring poems that examines the representation and reproduction of Blackness across communication media and popular culture. Together, text and image call up a nightmarish and seemingly insatiable buzzing-clicking-scrolling-sharing appetite for a daily diet of Black suffering.

In this follow-up to her award-winning debut collection How She Read (2019), Gibson gives sombre voice to Nostalgia, “the signifying ache in search of its signified.” A meditation on the rise of falling monuments, in the wake of Add to Cart consumer culture, this collection draws on the language of brand marketing, news and social media, DIY culture and graphic design—”the tyranny of copy and paste”—to confront the role of the new colonial machinery in the relentless consumption and commodification of Black bodies.

Drawing on icons past and present, this collection imagines Black voices moving freely across time and space: the hold of a 19th century slave ship diagram printed on a white rubber yoga mat; a whispering set of 1950s grinning salt n pepper shakers on a Pinterest dinner table; ringside with wrestler Sweet Daddy Siki at 1970s Maple Leaf Gardens on YouTube; and the dissenting centre of the 2020 Black Square. In the journey from longing to belonging, with/holding disrupts the fetishizing algorithms that continue to reproduce Black pain, promote anti-Black racism, and reinforce white supremacy. As an act of protest, this collection imagines how to survive the unspeakable present. As an act of reclamation it seeks to build a meaningful connection to the past through transcending acts of resistance.