Spells for Black Wizards
From the publisher, second edition: The poems in Candace Williams’ Spells for Black Wizards do not hold back. Candace's mind does not hold back. Neither should the medium through which she speaks. We first published this chapbook as a poetry map spread, with an index of spells. It sold out before the end of the first week of preorders. Now, over a year later, we would like to offer a second edition of Williams’s dazzling chapbook, this time as a traditional perfect-bound chapbook. This chapbook pushes form to the brink. To be a true master of form, one must learn and master the form—and then they must rupture it, obliterate it of its former occupancy. In this book of sestinas, sonnets, blank verse, and free verse, words ricochet off such formal and systemic ruptures. Here is a true book of spells for the contemporary reader.
From the publisher, first edition: Candace’s poems are masterful and brilliant, from beginning to end. Her use of meter dazzles in how she subverts it. The reader becomes aware of the imperial and patriarchal history of meter as Candace blares its music to talk about blackness, queerness, feminism, depression, and industrial complexes. Candace writes on the form of poetry itself while responding to the culture that confines it.
Rather than a traditional chapbook that opens and closes in the gestures of a left to right book experience, Spells for Black Wizards, for how its content resists linear histories, is designed to be experienced as a fold-out map. The poems, along with a broadside index of spells, are all nestled in a shimmering portfolio. Read this book on the train as if it were a newspaper, or splay it open like a map on your wall and coffee table. Candace Williams' chapbook is an art object for the people.
Winner of the Atlas Review's TAR Chapbook Series, 2017.
First edition: Published in 2018. Designed by Emily Raw and Edited by Natalie Eilbert. Printed in a limited run of 120.
Second edition: Released in 2019. Cover art by Emily Raw. Interior design/editing by Natalie Eilbert.
Check out reviews on Goodreads.
"What strikes me most about Spells For Black Wizards is the way Candace Williams chooses to honor the living—not just the people, but the space and the way she lives in it. "I turn off all the lights / and I'm still black" manages to give both a familiar warmth, and a familiar chill. I not only find myself alive in this book, but also I find the people who might be my people doing more than just becoming ghosts. The landscape that might be my landscape, complex in its joys and violences. There is a comfort in seeing yourself or your mother or your lovers or your past or your future echoed back to you, no matter how many times it is done. In Spells For Black Wizards, Candace Williams does it well, in new and exciting ways. I read this book, and I find a place to rest comfortably. Not safe from the world outside, but at home with my people nonetheless."
—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us and The Crown Ain't Worth Much
"The right spell demands precision. The poems in Spells for Black Wizards are precisely that: a bond between poetry and the mathematical; an alchemical alliance that names memory as a tuning signal in a country laced with the past. The city as a site for the interrogation of values, memos to damaging relationships, citation and altar: “I cannot bear witness for ancestors whose griot were massacred and ink deemed criminal. I dwell upon their broken vertebrae and mouth a gentle tribute.”"
—Nikki Wallschlaeger, author of Crawlspace and Houses
"This is a tough, tender, honest little book, whose poems wend bravely through Brooklyn. Spells for Black Wizards is timely: Williams knows how to wield intellect as a poetic weapon, critiquing property, ownership, and the oppressive and racist economies of a past where “your ancestors were tallied” and a present where “expression is taxed” and “your skin’s degree of pigment taxes the nerves.” In a moment where poetry is again moving to the forefront of resistance, poems like Williams’ “Black Sonnet” are crucial, not just because they beautifully represent what poetry can achieve now, but because they lay claim to what the best poetry has achieved all along. “Nostrand Avenue Dirge” reminds us of the difference between witness and tribute, as the poet offers “gentle tribute” rather than witness to “ancestors whose griot were massacred.” Timeliness aside, Williams has a rare gift for language and for the economy and the agility of the poetic line, as well as a wonderful sense of tempo. These poems sing and move with anger, and lyricism, and joy, and they have me convinced that poets and wizards have a great deal in common. Read them on the 2 and the 5 trains, or read them to the beat of your own walking and breathing. Read them with a flashlight or by a fire, and by all means, work these spells."
—Miller Oberman, author of The Unstill Ones
"Spells For Black Wizards by Candace Williams is a chapbook of poetry, a book of spells, a fold-out map. Williams is a Brooklyn truth-teller. She is a radical and a romantic. She speaks truth to power and beauty to those who so desperately need it. On the horrors of racism and oppression, she does not mince words, but this collection is also full of joy, exuberance, and magic. This is, perhaps, the form of resistance we need right now."
—Nadia Owusu, 2019 Whiting Awards winner and author of Aftershocks