Rio Cortez

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Longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry

“[Golden Ax] advances an intriguing, revolutionary argument: that the present is not simply a product of what has come before, but engaged in a constant, generative conversation with the past; that the past, in some ways, might be formed by what is to come. Sinuous and beautifully crafted, even the negative space on these pages transmits a complementary narrative of loss and yearning. Cortez alters both her own past, and ours, by acknowledging her people, integrating them into our present tense, and projecting them into a future in which true freedom might be possible.” —Tope Folarin, Vulture

“Outstanding . . . the poetry in these pages is intelligent, lyrical, as invested in the past as the present and future with witty nods to pop culture.”
—Roxane Gay, author of Hunger

“Golden Ax is a mirror maze where every poem elongates or widens the reader . . . I've never read anything like it. Truly a sublime experience.”
—Jason Reynolds, author of Ain't Burned All the Bright

“I love this book—for its sensuous, chiseled language; for all the trees and plants; for its weird and brainy sense of humor; for its palpable yearning and need; and for its entangled, complicated, unfixable, and unfixing blackness . . . I am so grateful for this book, and this voice, and this heart, in the world.”
—Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights  

“Cortez examines how her family came to the American West after Reconstruction—and reimagines the landscape through the lens of Black people who both embody and defy its realities. In the process, we are pushed to envision our own futures on the frontier, united by a collective aspiration to freedom.”—Essence

“A game changer. [Cortez is] without a doubt one of the most brilliant writers I've ever read . . . This book will be talked about for decades—it's canon. [Cortez is] a genius. . . Golden Ax is a seismic achievement . . . a cosmic-level work of art.”
—Brenda Shaughnessy, author of The Octopus Museum 

“Brimming with lyricism and imagination, sensitivity and sly humor; Golden Ax is a perfectly innovative and relentlessly tender collection by a thrillingly dynamic poet.”—Morgan Parker, author of Magical Negro

“Insistent with cataloging our fullest existence: Black life, Black leisure, Black peace, and Black joy, Golden Ax is an integral study and acknowledgment of a historically scattered, generationally wounded people. . . This collection is the grace we don’t deserve, but will love wholly as we earn the weight of its bounty.”—Mahogany L. Browne, author of Vinyl Moon 

“Cortez maps untrodden historical and speculative terrain in poems of stunning breadth and intimacy in this exquisite debut . . . reflecting on class, race, and womanhood with wit and lyrical subtlety . . . Unflinching and generous, this bold collection opens new vistas in contemporary Black poetry.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

“[A] terrific debut collection . . . Cortez can be brutally honest and unsettlingly witty.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“[These] poems are witty, weighty, and often profoundly radical in their approach to what has been and what may be to come.”
Alta Journal