The Living Wound

by J. Scott Coatsworth

Book Cover: The Living Wound
Part of the Urban Poetry and Soul series:
  • The Living Wound
Editions:Hardcover - First Edition: $ 15.50
ISBN: 979-8781004867
Size: 9.00 x 6.00 in
Pages: 163

The poems you’re about to read are children born from the womb of unwanted resilience. I offer you both hope and despair on your journey to raise them, for they embody that aspect. To have resilience is to survive an unforetold outcome, or malicious situation with a reformed sense of self, an affirmation to live in a world now altered.

The Living Wound is an autobiography written in poetry and prose on surviving rape, abuse, loss, and finding love. Though time will tear away at the fabrics of our soul, the key to becoming a Living Wound is to accept that, and to sew something more brilliant, enduring, and vibrant in its place.

With these few words I present to you the final chapter of Urban Poetry and Soul, take hold of these children, and nourish them as you read The Living Wound.

Reviews:SPR on wrote:

Like other books in this powerful series, this is a kaleidoscopic memoir in verse and experimental storytelling. As the title implies, these pieces reveal a myriad of griefs, both great and small, physical and abstract, societal and psychological. Painful confessions and nakedly honest revelations abound: “Today I took a breath praying to die / Hoping that this last one would be free.” Griffin fearlessly undresses his own wounds that were inflicted long before childhood, before his own birth, and distills them into dense verse electrified with visceral language.

Though the poet has preferred formats – 4/2/4/2/4 – there is a variety of poetic styles at work, along with myriad themes, from nostalgia, scars, and rebirth to mental illness, abolition, body image, and self-respect. There are few poems that feel out of place or redundant, despite the length of the collection; the breadth of exploration and reflection is impressive throughout.

Blending mythology and philosophy with tales of survival and odes to grief, Griffin has brought his Urban Poetry and Soul series to a poignant conclusion.

Book Life on wrote:

In this intimate, sometimes searing collection, Griffin threads the personal, political, and universal while digging into his own experiences as a gay man of Black and Native American ancestry. Emphasizing a theme of resilience—he writes “I was 14 when he kicked me out, /For honesty and open in coming out”—and striving to “bridge vast cultural disparity,” Griffin’s frank, sometimes blunt verses expose wounds, denounce prejudice, and find hope in the work of building community. “He reached out to the new world,/ One he helped create unable to find a place,” he writes in “A Boy,” a poem whose poignant central figure, cast out and eventually “drained” even of tears, proves “Unable to save himself, only others.”

The portrait that emerges over these clear, inviting poems is of a man dedicated to creating a better world than the one he had to endure. Griffin draws powerful connections between everyday life and the brutality of history in poems like “Cooking,” in which the “fine perfection” and “rich flavor” of food that draws on family legacy is the root of deeper truths: “From enslaved African to Choctaw ancestry, / Soul food has danced alongside genealogy,” he writes, noting that “Flames of hate boiled the roux of miscegenation.” “Cooking” concludes, though, in a celebration of ancestry, of the sense of handed-down recipes guiding him now, and of how act of preparing and sharing food links past and present.

The nourishment of connection also proves a recurring theme, often suggesting a balm for cruelty and prejudice. (The “wound” of the title is living, after all.) “Poetic Love” imagines “a garden that nourishes two as one,” just as “A Hug” contemplates a moment of “brief, beautiful, and fleeting” connection from a stranger. “So please just hold me as I am, a second longer,” Griffin writes, in a late poem that could serve as a capstone for this accessible, emotionally direct collection that should resonate with any reader of personal yet highly relatable free verse.

Takeaway: Accessible, emotionally direct poems centered on the urgent power of human connection.

Great for fans of: Rickey Laurentiis, Danez Smith.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

About the Author

Scott lives with his husband Mark in a little yellow bungalow with two pink flamingoes in Sacramento. He inhabits the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecting their own reality. Scott is is the committee chair for the Indie Authors Committee at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

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