Welcome to May We Present…, a column from Lambda Literary that highlights authors with recent or forthcoming publications. This November, we’re featuring Nefertiti Asanti and their new poetry collection, fist of wind, published on October 29th by Foglifter Press. fist of wind centers the simultaneously magical and mortal Black body as a site of healing and transformation from pain, ranging from larger forms of structural, communal, and intergenerational pain to the personal pain of menstruation out of which the collection was born.
With fist of wind, Asanti became the first winner of the Start A Riot! Chapbook Prize, a prize for local emerging queer and trans Black writers, indigenous writers, and writers of color, created by Foglifter Press, RADAR Productions, and Still Here San Francisco. The win was well deserved, as fist of wind is a breathtaking and candid lyrical testimony, one that might be thought of as an exceptional exploration in translation. Asanti masterfully translates the physical into the textual and, through the reader, back into the physical again. Through bold engagement with form and space, Asanti translates the dynamic qualities of the spoken word into the written word without losing its sense of embodiment. Reading fist of wind becomes a transfixing, corporeal undertaking, one that everyone should experience at least once.
Below, Nefertiti Asanti elaborates on the most difficult tangible sensation to put into words, how poetry interacts with other forms of text, and the last thing she read that surprised her.
When did you realize you had to write fist of wind?
When I started writing toward fist of wind, I was actually writing toward stopping some pain. I was living alone in Brooklyn in a basement-level apartment I could barely afford after resigning from the first full-time job I’d ever had. I was living alone, and I was in pain, physical pain as a result of my period. I had cramps, debilitating cramps that demanded my attention once they hit and kept hitting.
One day it was just out of control—the pain was so uncomfortable and relentless and beyond me, something inside me was like, “This don’t belong to me; this ain’t mine,” so I prayed a spell into it. Eventually, the pain subsided and along with it went the idea of the pain being a singular thing that I owned, that owned me.
During that time, I wrote what I called “full moon lunes,” three-line, three-syllable, three-word per line poems that were prayers to my womb to welcome healing and expel the pain I’d absorbed from being Black and bleeding and alive and the un/healed histories of my ancestors, lineage, and community. As a person who absorbs so much of what’s around me, it was important that I let go of what I could in a form that echoed the physical boundaries pain can create and transcend them. At least two pieces in fist of wind are in lunes or borrow from the form. I wrote fist of wind because I wanted to have conversations with other Black people about periods and healing from violence, whatever the source.