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Aster of Ceremonies by JJJJJerome Ellis
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Aster of Ceremonies

Poems

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Narrator JJJJJerome Ellis

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Length 6 hours 18 minutes
Language English
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A polyphonic new entry in Multiverse—a literary series written and curated by the neurodivergent—JJJJJerome Ellis’s Aster of Ceremonies beautifully extends the vision of his debut book and album, The Clearing, a “lyrical celebration of and inquiry into the intersections of blackness, music, and disabled speech” (Claudia Rankine).

Aster of Ceremonies asks what rites we need now and how poetry, astir in the asters, can help them along. What is the relationship between fleeing and feeling? How can the voices of those who came before—and the stutters that leaven those voices—carry into our present moment, mingling with our own? When Ellis writes, “Bring me the stolen will / Bring me the stolen well,” his voice is a conduit, his “me” is many. Through the grateful invocations of ancestors—Hannah, Mariah, Kit, Jan, and others—and their songs, he rewrites history, creating a world that blooms backward, reimagining what it means for Black and disabled people to have taken, and to continue to take, their freedom. 

By weaving a chorus of voices past and present, Ellis counters the attack of “all masters of all vessels” and replaces it with a family of flowers. He models how—as with his brilliant transduction of escaped slave advertisements—we might proclaim lost ownership over literature and history. “Bring me to the well,” he chants, implores, channels. “Bring me to me.” In this bringing, in this singing, he proclaims our collective belonging to shared worlds where we can gather and heal.

JJJJJerome Ellis is the author of Aster of Ceremonies. JJJJJerome was born in 1989 to Jamaican and Grenadian immigrants. JJJJJerome lives in Tidewater, Virginia with their wife, ecologist-poet Luísa Black Ellis. JJJJJerome dreams of building a sonic bath house!

JJJJJerome Ellis is the author of Aster of Ceremonies. JJJJJerome was born in 1989 to Jamaican and Grenadian immigrants. JJJJJerome lives in Tidewater, Virginia with their wife, ecologist-poet Luísa Black Ellis. JJJJJerome dreams of building a sonic bath house!

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Reviews

Praise for Aster of Ceremonies

“JJJJJerome Ellis’s Aster of Ceremonies blows my mind, and blows the lids off of any preconceptions about what poetry can make possible. With each movement, innovation, insight, and deepening—with each page—we are invited into ceremony: into a greenhouse of gratitude, repetition, remembering, and music. Ellis expertly rearranges sound, perspective, ecology, and history into a priceless song. '[H]owever you are, come, come and stay in the rearrangement.'"—Ama Codjoe, author of Bluest Nude

 “Say her name! We chant at the vigil. Say their names! We insist in honor of our ancestors. But what if we remember the trouble of the name, the limitation of the name, the fact that we don't know the names of so many of our ancestors, only their indexes of service, their reference of capture? Not to mention the contingency of saying itself in the chasm of history and in the diversity of our vocal flow, for example in the sacrament of the stutter. In Aster of Ceremonies, JJJJJerome Ellis shows how an involuntary stoppage can become a baptism, an infinite offering. Accompanying our formerly enslaved and sometimes speechless, our fleeing and sometimes stuttering ancestors, Ellis acknowledges how the surrender, the space where the voices we would raise in the services of liberation, instead ‘fall to their knees,’ opening space for interspecies eldership, fugitive kinship. Breath. Love. This book is a ceremony we have needed for centuries and an education towards the infinite ceremonies to come. JJJJJerome, we honor the holiness of your speech and of your whole being. We thank all the Plant Elders for creating the oxygen you breathe.”—Alexis Pauline Gumbs, author of Undrowned

“If I want to say that I no longer know the difference between fluency and dysfluency, it’s not to deny the difficult facts of impediment and impatience; it is, rather, to acknowledge an achievement of such path-breaking, ground-turning force that it bears the genuinely radical possibility of not knowing but feeling the difference, and of feeling difference in general and in all its generativity. As JJJJJerome Ellis enlarges and distills the very substance of language, black poetry and black poetics come into their own by exploding.”—Fred Moten, author of In the Break

Aster of Ceremonies is a ministry of fearlessness, uncaged. Aster, a term Ellis brilliantly rips from the antebellum term Master, represents the unapologetic grit embedded throughout this astounding collection. Ellis unites dysfluency, black performance, and ecology to make visible the identities of black enslaved ancestors and individuals who stutter. We are lyrically transformed in a linguistic garden: emboldened to sing the names of black activists, inspirited to rearrange progress: pronouncing / announcing ‘gro’ from violent terms like Negro, and driven to pay homage to the earth that fertilizes our faith. JJJJJerome Ellis is truly a poetic cultivator of Black Truth.”—Delicia Daniels, author of The Language We Cry In

"This is what poetry should be. Always. JJJJJerome Ellis brings us back to the fine elements of lyric and line. This tale is one that the ancestors most certainly re-hearse and sing to us when we are sleeping."—Sharon P. Holland, author of an other: a black feminist consideration of animal life

“[JJJerome Ellis’] work has challenged and moved me in countless ways; I simply can’t say enough good things about it.”—Laura Sackton, Book Riot

Praise for The Clearing

The Clearing is many things: a lyrical celebration of and inquiry into the intersections of blackness, music, and disabled speech; a restless interrogation of linear time; an intimate portrait of the author’s real-time experience of his stutter; a baptism in syllable and sound; and a manuscript illuminated by The Stutter. At its core is Ellis’s metaphor of the clearing, a place of possibility and ‘momentary, transitory, glimpsed liberation.’ He invites us to meet him there.”—Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen

“Ellis was made for speaking. . . . His storytelling is deeply absorbing; and as displayed on the album it opens up portals to histories and sensitivities that are impossible to forget. . . . In Ellis’s poetic but political artwork, disfluency . . . becomes a means to exist outside of ordinary time, as defined by a white-dominated world.”Guardian (UK)

“There is a tome of philosophy in a glottal block. The Clearing is an extended meditation on the beauty of dysfluency. The stutter is a wave, a river, a passageway across time, the bridge between the sonic hold and the rocky outcrop of language. In this wondrous volume, Ellis invites us to listen to the music of the stutter as a way to think blackness and its potentiality, to gather with monks, fugitives, stutterers, and philosophers, those able to make an enclosure or a block into music.  How exquisite the sounds.”—Saidiya Hartman, author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

“Both a theoretical investigation and a piece of resistance art in itself, pushing back against societal expectations of performative fluency . . . [and] cracking open conventional notions of linearity.”Pitchfork

“In The Clearing: the sound within Silence explodes into the Big Bang of words

In The Clearing: lingual universe of galaxies, meteor showers, comets, planets, and stars

In The Clearing: words edge—decorate the silence 

In The Clearing: multivalent breaths of Breath, “original punctuation” erect fluttering cathedrals of sound

In The Clearing: leftover letters love

In The Clearing: words and letters paint sonic landscapes

In The Clearing: hieroglyphs, sacred carvings of sound erase the white line continuum

In The Clearing: make sound visible!

In The Clearing: (diss)fluency

In The Clearing: music frees the glottal stop

In The Clearing: excesses of spirit

In The Clearing: saxophones weep

In The Clearing: words become winged syllables, arrows to the ancestors

In The Clearing: Xplosion

In The Clearing: black time of tremble

In The Clearing: no white line continuum of time

In The Clearing: only phonemes, only breath, only sound

In The Clearing: breath embroiders time, is embroidered by time

In The Clearing: the collective breath, the ga(s)p

In The Clearing: silence sculpts the Word Stealth

In The Clearing: bearing witness to the Witness in breath

In The Clearing: shatters its own being

In the Clearing:  if you could write paint, sculpt, or erect the sound of Silence

In The Clearing: prayer, benediction, blessing, spell, grief, lump in the throat, unshed tears, the stutter in life

In The Clearing: compels, enfolds, genuflects in grace

In The Clearing: whole in its fracturing, its fragments of breath, And word, And life

In The Clearing: is

In The Clearing: Holy”M. NourbeSe Philip, author of Zong!

“The originality of Ellis’s work cannot be overstated. Here, dysfluency, blackness, music and time continually intersect and diverge, informing and reshaping each other as forces of resistance converging on ‘the clearing’—a site of encounter between the dysfluent and fluent voice that generates new understandings of the creative, interpersonal, and political power of stuttering speech. Moving between the intimacy of bodies in the shared space and time of the stutter, and the broader historical landscape of slavery and its legacies, The Clearing places race at the epicentre of a growing movement to reclaim the stutter as a vital expression of the diversity and richness of our communicative lives.”—Maria Stuart, assistant professor of American literature, University College Dublin

 

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