let the dead in
Saida Agostini’s first full-length poetry collection, let the dead in, is an exploration of the mythologies that seek to subjugate Black bodies, and the counter-stories that reject such subjugation. Audacious, sensual, and grieving, this work explores how Black women harness the fantastic to craft their own road to freedom. A journey across Guyana, London, and the United States, it is a meditation on black womanhood, queerness, the legacy of colonization, and pleasure. These poems craft a creation story fat with love, queerness, mermaids, and blackness.
Praise for let the dead in
“‘where does the story start’ Saida Agostini asks in her stunning debut collection let the dead in. It starts with a poet in full command of a language so lyrically luscious, each poem feels like a full meal. It starts with a poet courageous enough to plumb emotional depths and limn their fruit. It starts with queer love stories, myths, family histories, and poems that swing from Guyana to Baltimore. ‘I prepared a daily feast of hallelujah to lay at your feet’ Agostini writes, and each poem is a hallelujah, a salve, a prayer, and a benediction finely wrought from a ferocious poet who is just beginning to bless us. “
— Teri Ellen Cross Davis, author of a more perfect Union and Haint.
“When I say/I love my family/what I mean/is I worship/the battle,” Saida Agostini writes early in just let the dead in. What is the battle if not a familiar story of a covetous gaze—(“John Smith had the same story”)—the violence following, inevitable; or a wife who “spins time into fields of obeisance;” or love: “a wound that you pack and pack”? Two fat black women making love “like they have names, like we will know them,” or an ex-lover’s name hidden under a black rectangle, its redaction a dark wall-cum-passageway, from which might emerge “a revolt of black girls”—what this world awaits and always just what we need. Let them come, because they ask questions nobody else would dare imagine. Their questions matter, a matter of survival. Because black women poets have always known, the battle is art. Whether in fixed daguerreotype or a fleeting gasp, these poems capture divinity in the battle: its forms “just sucked back/words into your throat/where everything beautiful/and grieving can be caught.”
— Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, author of Open Interval and Black Swan
“In her remarkable book, let the dead in, Saida Agostini asks, ‘where does the story start?‘ And she answers and answers:…’with one lie, then another, then another, until a whole/world is born, and we wait, a revolt of black girls.‘ These courageous poems of blooming and brutality, of unrelenting voice and witness, take us deep into the ruthless body, into spirit-killing. These brave poems write the murder of black women, hatred of queer and trans bodies as not just common, but endemic—yet Agostini brings survival into light, brings strong black women alive and beautiful and wildly sexual: ‘we are nothing if not houses to each other that can hold/all sorts of brutal tender memory, make rooms of flesh/and light.‘”
— Jan Beatty, author of The Body Wars