Motherworld: A Devotional for the Alter-Life by Destiny Hemphill


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“‘mama say this earth will outlive this world, ‘ Destiny Hemphill writes, and in this gleaming collection she gathers what of this life might bloom into another. Through rituals, hymns, memories, murmurings, chants, and psalms, motherworld convenes the women and waters whose routes mark an otherwise from the brutal arrangements of the here and now. This transformative practice is not for the faint of heart. Toni Cade Bambara asks: ‘Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well? . . . cause wholeness is no trifling matter.’ And here is a poet who answers with a resounding yes–her affirmation a root system, fortified by all the nourishment of blood and earth. Hemphill’s motherworld shimmers with that brightdark joy that is grief’s marrow. What luck and work to carry the instruction of these poems. I will be holding them close and pressing them into many hands.”–Claire Schwartz

motherworld transforms language into something map-like, topographical, somatic. A vast heredity speaks out in this beautiful collection of poetry–it is the multifarious self and all those that came before. A hymn of “we bury ourselves like cicadas upon the unearthing, the first instruction is to weep” continuous death and rebirth is here. It is prophesy in a voice that is arresting and fierce. ‘i am trying to remold my mouth to speak more bravely, ‘ Hemphill writes. She examines the past, but is not mired by it. Grief and love are emotions that are processed through the body, which is painful, but a means towards tangibility and revolution. This language-driven reality gives us something living to hold in our very mouths, and transform. These poems feel godly. And shared. This book shares a secret with the reader: ‘the earth will outlive this world.’ And I for one needed very much to hear it.”– Bianca Stone

“Destiny Hemphill summons us to poetry as ritual, and ritual as reminder. Reminder: ‘you are not alone.’ Reminder: ‘we bonded to each other.’ Reminder: ‘made boundless and bountiful with each other.’ We are reminded that ‘this earth will outlive this world, ‘ and that our abolitionist task is ‘to make the world come undone.’ In this undoing, we are reminded ‘that when it / is not easy, this makes it even / more necessary to be sweet.’ For this gift of poetry as sacred work, I am incredibly grateful.”– k’eguro macharia

“This powerful collection compels us through the poetics of the matriarchy: ‘baby, you better feast!’ and these poems nourish and sustain outside of time, and within it, fixed to the page through urgently inventive form and sonics that bring us breathe and listen together. Readers of Hemphill’s motherworld will remember and be convinced: ‘may we remember that we do not have to open up our wounds / just to prove that we have been wounded / may we speak that which is ours to speak’ that language interfuses is as it disturbs and heals and transforms the world so that we may survive, if through language, we are also with it.”– Joan Naviyuk Kane

“Destiny Hemphill’s motherworld: a devotional for the alter-life stuns with an incantatory power that heals, transports, and transmutes. It’s as if every poem has been tenderly and intensely embedded with an intention to raise a vortex of love while confronting the shadows that languish within personal, familial, and collective histories. From channeling an earth in distress to the summoning of ancestral lore, Hemphill proves herself to be a high priestess of language and a poet of oracular wisdom. This is a book to place on one’s altar.”– Mai Der Vang

Motherworld: A Devotional for the Alter-Life by Destiny Hemphill