In The Gospel of Breaking, Jillian Christmas confirms what followers of her performance and artistic curation have long known: there is magic in her words. Befitting someone who "speaks things into being," Christmas extracts from family history, queer lineage, and the political landscape of a racialized life to create a rich, softly defiant collection of poems.
Christmas draws a circle around the things she calls "holy": the family line that cannot find its root but survived to fill the skies with radiant flesh; the body, broken and unbroken and broken and new again; the lover lost, the friend lost, and the loss itself; and the hands that hold them all with brilliant, tender care. Expansive and beautiful, these poems allow readers to swim in Jillian Christmas's mother-tongue and to dream at her shores.
The Gospel of Breaking is both a tender and swift-kicking collection. From gentle folk poems of love, longing, and community to Tobagonian family narratives and confident spoken word pieces in Canadian West Coast vernacular, this work shows a poet shifting between the flexible power of performance and the immovable page. These are the witch hymns of becoming. They are the proud songs of a queer, black, unapologetic womxn on the rise with the breeze of the Pacific Northwest and Caribbean at her back. In her own words, 'reminder to the audience: / there is a bright body alive on the stage / invite them into the space / can you feel their generous bending / swell of a praise-song quick and rocking at the back of our throats.' -Tanya Evanson, author of Nouveau Griot
I am taken by the adventurous forms that leap off the page in The Gospel of Breaking and how those forms are complemented by the ability of Jillian Christmas. The winding forms are held together by pristine imagery, a crisp attention to narrative, and illuminating metaphor. This book, among many other things, is a showcase of how many different ways a poet can show themselves to be dazzling. -Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, author of They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us
Jillian Christmas is incantatory and disarming, sensitive and cerebral, fiercely defiant and courageously tender. 'I love hard as I know how,' she writes, distilling the project of our time. -David Chariandy, author of Brother and Soucouyant