searching for eastman

Shortlisted for the ReLit Award, Poetry, 2022

searching for eastman is a multidisciplinary performance—a choreopoem—in four acts, based on the interpretation of four of Julius Eastman’s compositions—evil nigger; prelude to st joan; stay on it; and gay guerrilla. Making use of different artistic forms—poetry, theatre, music, dance, video, and digital—it is inspired by the African griot tradition, the Harlem Renaissance (eg the work of Langston Hughes with jazz and Kurt Weil), and the Black Arts movement (eg Amiri Baraka’s work with Sun Ra).


“Like its inspiration, Searching for Eastman is boldly multi-faceted and inventive.”
–Barb Carey, Toronto Star

Searching for Eastman is a work of genius. Employing poetry, video, dance, and occasionally prose, Charles Smith depicts the historic and sometimes subliminal dimensions of Black queer ontology as it impacted the life and work of Julius Eastman. The poem is often surreal with characters whose names evoke ethos rather than people and yet Smith manages to keep it close to empirical reality. The breadth and depth are stunning. One must read it with the attention one gives to The Waste Land.”
–H Nigel Thomas, author of Return to Arcadia


Publication Date: September 2021

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-77415-053-5
Page size: 5.5″ x 8.25″
96 pages

eBook ISBN: 978-1-77415-054-2

charles smith photo

charles c smith is a poet, playwright and performer. He studied poetry and drama at New York City University and Herbert Berghof Studios, and drama at the Frank Silvera’s Writers’ Workshop in Harlem. His play Last Days for the Desperate won an award from Black Theatre Canada. He has published four books of poetry, including Travelogue of the Bereaved (Mawenzi House), has edited several collections of poetry (including the works of Dionne Brand, Marlene Nourbese Phillips, Claire Harris, Cyril Dabydeen, Lillian Allen, George Elliott Clarke, Clifton Joseph), and his writings have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including Poetry Canada Review, Quill & Quire, Descant, Dandelion, Fiddlehead, Anti-Racism in Education: Missing in Action (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives), Amethyst Review, Bywords, Canadian Ethnic Studies and others. He lives in Toronto.

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