New Books: “What Noise against the Cane”

Trinidadian-born Desiree C. Bailey’s What Noise against the Cane, a debut poetry collection published in the Yale Series of Younger Poets in April 2021, is “a lyrical and polyvocal exploration of what it means to fight for yourself.” This collection is a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Poetry. [Also see previous post National Book Awards Longlist for Poetry.] In his foreword, Carl Phillips writes, “Bailey invites us to see what twenty-first-century life is like for a young woman of the Black diaspora in the long wake of a history of slavery, brutality, and struggling for freedoms bodily and psychological.”

Description: The 115th volume of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, What Noise Against the Cane is a lyric quest for belonging and freedom, weaving political resistance, Caribbean folklore, immigration, and the realities of Black life in America. Desiree C. Bailey begins by reworking the epic in an oceanic narrative of bondage and liberation in the midst of the Haitian Revolution. The poems move into the contemporary Black diaspora, probing the mythologies of home, belief, nation, and womanhood. Series judge Carl Phillips observes that Bailey’s “poems argue for hope and faith equally. . .  These are powerful poems, indeed, and they make a persuasive argument for the transformative powers of steady defiance.”

Desiree C. Bailey is the author of the fiction chapbook In Dirt or Saltwater and has been published in Best American Poetry, Academy of American PoetsCallaloo, and elsewhere. She was born in Trinidad and Tobago, and grew up in Queens, New York. Her website is

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