Smoking the Bible by Chris Abani


An award-winning author of numerous books, Chris Abani moves between his Igbo ancestry and migration to the United States in poems that evoke the holiness of grief through the startling, central practice of inhaling an immolated Bible.

Smoking the Bible is an arresting collection of poems thick with feeling, shaped by Chris Abani’s astounding command of form and metaphor. These poems reveal the personal story of two brothers―one elegizing the other―and the larger story of a man in exile: exile of geography, culture, and memory. What we experience in this emotionally generous collection is a deep spiritual reckoning that draws on ancient African traditions of belief, and an intellectual vivacity drawing on various wisdom literatures and traditions. Abani illustrates the connective geography between harm, regret, and release, as poems move through landscapes of Nigeria, the Midwestern United States, adulthood, and childhood. One has the sense of entering a whole and complex world of the imagination in reading this collection. There is no artifice here, no affectation; and these poems are a study in the very grace of image


“Abani’s radiant seventh poetry collection emanates grit and beauty, while the senses are called to attention.”—Booklist, Starred Review

“This new collection by Nigerian American Chris Abani—the celebrated, award-winning novelist, poet and professor—mines individual, cultural, and geographic losses, creating a collection that is emotional and linguistically expansive. He explores ‘the personal story of two brothers—one elegizing the other—and the larger story of a man in exile’ through poems that are spiritual, philosophical, personal, and deeply affecting. Especially for those of us with more than one culture, the more we move through life, the more we must wonder: what do we belong to, and what belongs to us?”Chicago Review of Books

“These elegiac meditations on faith, heritage, masculinity, race, and familial loss are particularized in the manner of well-crafted fiction, while reaching beyond the afflictions of one man’s family to something vaster.”—Harriet Books, Poetry Foundation

“In this poetry collection, multidisciplinary writer Chris Abani takes the point of view of a person elegizing his own brother while living with the realities of exile—culturally, geographically, and emotionally. His work incorporates various artistic, intellectual, and belief traditions from Africa and across the world.”Shondaland

Smoking the Bible is a powerful, elegiac collection, eloquent with grief and forgiveness.”North of Oxford

“These poems follow the story of two brothers and a man in exile; but reader beware: this award-winning poet’s words can move anyone to their core.”She Reads

About the Author

Acclaimed novelist, poet, and public speaker Chris Abani grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria. Author of fourteen books, he is the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship, among many honors. Abani is a Board of Trustees Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University.

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