Poet, Essayist Justin Phillip Reed on The Malevolent Volume

“Poetry is present in pretty much every culture,” says Reed. “It is present across class boundaries.” But, he notes, depending on those boundaries it looks and acts differently. “I think there is a way that certain kinds of poetry are rewarded as literature and therefore are given a kind of visibility that ends up reifying things that the more aristocratic class parties value.”

In this episode, a conversation with poet, essayist and National Book Award Winner Justin Phillip Reed about his recent collection The Malevolent Volume (Coffee House Press, 2020). We spoke with Reed remotely from his home in Pittsburg, PA. His debut poetry collection, Indecency (Coffee House Press, 2018) was awarded the National Book Award for Poetry.

Episode 50 – Justin Phillip Reed

In this episode, a conversation with poet and essayist Justin Phillip Reed about his new poetry collection, The Malevolent Volume (2020). His debut collection, Indecency (2018) won the National Book Award for poetry.

Reed discusses how he came to see poetry as a vocation and the places he sees for poetry in his life and in our world, and the ways in which poetry can function, especially for Black artists, as a counterweight to invisibility. He also locates his own work within the ecosystem of poetic works and influences that have come before and after his own work.


17:45 – In a Daydream of Being the Big House Missus (p. 41)

20:02 – Gothic (p. 20)

Learn more about Reed and his work on his website. You can purchase his work from Coffee House Press or at your local independent bookseller.

Go Deeper: Additional Materials

Reed mentioned the poets below as some (but not all) of the artists whose work he finds valuable and sees as connected to his own work.

francine j. harris | Poetry Foundation

francine j. harris is originally from Detroit, Michigan, where she grew up in one of many neighborhoods operating in economic limbo in the aftermath of the motor industry collapse. After high school, harris moved to Arizona and attended several community colleges part-time before earning…

Safiya Sinclair | Poetry Foundation

Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Her first full-length collection, Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press, 2016), won a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Addison M. Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the…

Sleeping with the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen | Poetry Foundation

I beg to dicker with my silver-tongued companion, whose lips are ready to read my shining gloss. A versatile partner, conversant and well-versed in the verbal art, the dictionary is not averse to the solitary habits of the curiously wide-awake reader.

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