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The import of sound and music, cultural iconography, and the fine-spun image are pulsing throughout Cherryl Floyd-Miller’s third collection of poems, Exquisite Heats. She explores the infinite manifestations of heat in the human experience. She moves comfortably from issues of public history and personal identity to the musings of revered icons. R&B legend Rick James speaks of impropriety and addiction, Marvin Gaye reveals his aesthetic struggles as a popular artist, Billie Holiday gives voice lessons, Alice Walker’s Celie Johnson boils grits, and Joe Frazier recounts the night he beat Muhammad Ali.
Employing persona poems, ars poetica, the blues, sestinas, ghazals, sonnets and narrative free verse, Floyd-Miller proves her poetic skill through a wide range of form. In the award-winning poem, “Voodoo Chicken,” she lures you to take a sultry plunge into daring language and bewitching subject matter. But as she warns in the opening of this collection: Careful. “Nothing is there to catch you.”
‘The heats in Exquisite Heats are exquisite indeed, each one a discovery of heat source, and I, like a plant needing a light, stretch to bask in each illumination. These necessary plunges into heat become in Cherryl Floyd-Miller’s hot hands the repeated proving that we are alive each time a reason to doubt comes along. The ecstasies of intimacies that Floyd-Miller exalts ... do reach us, the fires of humanity and the small heats of love, all of which can burn out, leaving behind extraordinary textures and patterns of ash which is the extraordinary substance of these poems. This is the ash that is as prevalent as dust, for the history of existence, so far as we know now, is from a heat source; the universe may have burned into being. Floyd-Miller’s poems echo that burning; [her] ‘root-beet-tinged elbow is bright cinder that burns every day.’’ —Thylias Moss, author of ‘Tokyo Butter’, ‘Slave Moth’ and ‘Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler’
‘The poetry of Cherryl Floyd-Miller possesses a bottomless range: formalism that remains fresh in language, lyricism that speaks beyond its music, and narratives with characters we’ll never forget. These poems hold reverie, history and present moments in images that burn beneath every line; scenes develop and move thorough time seamlessly. The language is not only heated, indeed, but there is also a management of life and a spiritual quest that transcends aesthetics.’ —A. Van Jordan, author of ‘Quantum Lyrics,’ ‘Macnolia’ and ‘Rise’
‘When you open UTTERANCE: A MUSEOLOGY OF KIN, know Cherryl Floyd-Miller is a woman tending her tree of blood, a poet telling stories that are heartbreaking and headstrong like the best blues – know this new poet has ‘revolutions of [her] own to start.’’ —Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, author of The Gospel of Barbecue, Outlandish Blues and Red Clay Suite
‘The thing that really drew me to her work was her poetic style and authentic perspective: She is a North Carolina native writing about North Carolina. This perspective is evident in her sophisticated understanding of Southern culture and her ability to articulate it with details that ring with truth.’ —Scott Pardue, director, New World Stage Theatre, Fall 2003
‘You've gotten us into some serious shit.’ —Von Washington, director, Western Michigan University, Fall 2004