Offerings of Desire by Kelly Norman Ellis

ISBN  978-0-9852877-1-9

Willow Books


To order:

Praise for Offerings of Desire:

“In Kelly Norman Ellis’ long awaited second collection, a grand cinema of black life is honey-beamed and balanced on a ‘nipple of coal.’ Somewhere in the middle of turning these pages, the reader will helplessly rise and mercilessly hunt for dirty rice and Bill Withers. It is indeed the poet’s job to save something, but Ellis does more—she swears to paper a luscious book so rich with black zest and drylongso that each page sets high our thirst for all that is human, longed for and inexplicable.”

~Nikky Finney, author of Head Off & Split, 2011 National Book Award for Poetry

“Every stanza in this fierce and formidable collection strikes a sweet, keening note for the colored girl—the front-row-center Sunday morning worshipper, the fast gal craving the jukebox on Saturday night, the grandmama arced over a stove-top staple, the precocious nappy-headed chile tripping the double-dutch line. With Offerings of Desire, Kelly Norman Ellis has graced us all with a gift that is nothing short of a miracle. She has blessed the sisterhood with a soundtrack.”

~Patricia Smith, author of Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (Coffee House, 2012) and Blood Dazzler, 2008 National Book Award Finalist

“Kelly Norman Ellis declares “I am a woman of omens,” and you can’t look away. Like the perfectly chartered bloodlines of her debut, Tougaloo Blues, Ellis speaks to our bodies and souls once again with Offerings of Desire: a daily soundtrack of work/love/life songs that happily blurs the lines. I would be less than honest if I didn’t say I am a student of her words, that I learn what it means to sculpt sight, sound and memory in Ellis’ rich appeals to the senses. These poems are a seat at a table of plenty, each course more pleasing than the last. When she raises an invocation ‘for Robeson and Einstein,/ the hustler on the El/and the banger on my corner,’ believe. This poet can conjure such a varied and magical world.”

~Mitchell L. H. Douglas, author of Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem


New Orleans Chant

(for Ed Bradley)

you creole

you crazy

carry a razor in your garter

you Shango and blue

you feed women tomatoes

with salt in the dark you Jelly Roll

and Blue Bland you Wynton and Brandford

Papa Ellis too

you like Gumbo for Christmas

grits& oysters for breakfast

chickoree in the coffee

butter on the biscuit

you conked

you waved

you nappy all over

you Yoruba and neckbone

pressed handkerchief in pocket

you wingtipped

you old

you Fats Domino

you a mannish whisper

in married gal’s ear

you black as black

you Neville’s falsetto

you yellow

you new

you back

you bone

you frazzled tail rooster

you preacher and teacher

you sacred

you dirty profane

you sweet tea in mason glasses

you husband and buttermilk sweet back door man

you the moaning in church  you the bass at the altar

you latin mass incense Legba riding his horse

you be


on the cross


Kelly Norman Ellis is an associate professor of English and director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Chicago State University. She is the author of Tougaloo Blues and co-editor of Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on AIDS/HIV, both from Third World Press. Her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Sou’Wester, PMS (Poem, Memoir, Story), Tidal Basin Review, Calyx, and The Ringing Ear. In 2010 Essence Magazine voted her one of their forty favorite poets. She is a Cave Canem Poetry Fellow and founding member of the Affrilachian Poets.

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