Picking Scabs from the Body History
by Joanne Godley
Picking Scabs from the Body History, opens with an ode to a library wherein a nine-year-old girl is invited in to read. She quickly discovers, in the book she picks up (We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People), a historical narrative fraught with injustices that “bristles the hair on my fearful arms,” and sees photos of “lynching victims” and “treed men swing with hung heads/ mouths stuffed full.”
Poems in the collection exposes the dark underbelly of history—the sore spots or scabs of history. There is a poem relating another genocide—this time of the American native peoples. Yet another poem describes the theft of genetic material from Henrietta Lacks that spawned a multibillion-dollar stem cell industry, the injustices meted out to Haiti—the first nation to cast off enslavement. Godley includes poems from her own life experiences: from witnessing a coup d’état in Cote d’Ivoire to a personal tryst with members of the Black Panther Party to the rebellion in the 1970’s in Detroit, Michigan.
These are poems of witness, of protest and of empowerment. They are commentaries on the mis-written truths about race, violence and injustice and of the targeted peoples involved reclaiming their place in history.
About the Author
Joanne Godley is a practicing physician, poet and writer whose work is informed by social injustices. She is a native of Detroit residing in Alexandria, Virginia. She is convinced she is a descendant of nomads because traveling is one of her great passions (along with art collecting, salsa dancing and cycling). She spent time working in Africa as a Peace Corps medical officer.
Godley’s lyric memoir was a finalist for the Kore Press Memoir contest and the Sunshots Press Prose Contest, and it received honorable mentions in the Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Book contest and the National Woman’s Book Association Contest. She completed an online novel writing certification program through Stanford University. Her first novel was ranked finalist in Kimbilio’s annual novel writing contest.
Three of her poems were published in an anthology. A flash creative nonfiction work was recently published in the Kenyon Review blog and a flash noir fiction piece appears on the Akashiac Press blog, Mondays are Murder. Godley attended the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference in 2018 and the Kenyon Writers Workshop in 2019. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writing Association, the Author’s Guild and the NWBA.
Early Praise for Picking Scabs from the Body History:
Dr. Joanne Godley’s Picking Scabs from the Body History is a collection of poems whose pulse is powered by its ability to both document and archive the complexity of the African diasporic experience. Polyvocal in narration, Picking Scabs from the Body History considers the blatant and pernicious consequences of slavery and its enduring legacy, most clearly manifested through the dispossession of a people’s culture and selfhood. With its increasing zoom from the landscape of history and into the marrow of family stories, Dr. Godley brings the abstract natures of justice and injustice to eye level—it is in these moments that the reader sees the inextricability of the personal and the political. It is in these moments that the reader also witnesses the brilliance of survival and self-possession. Unflinching in its indictment of the human condition, one of this collection’s greatest strengths is its honesty, one that is prismatic in its manifold expressions of exactitude, lyricism, passion, and erudition. This is the type of honesty that at its core, invites us to examine how we might hold the value of human life and dignity with all that it is owed—these poems challenge us to imagine and model a more radical, selfless, inclusive, and incandescent form of love.
—Yalie Kamara, author of When the Living Sing
and A Brief Biography of My Name
From the opening scene in a child’s library through historical and personal locations that remind, inform, and gut punch with stark imagery and pared-down language, Joanne Godley’s Picking Scabs from the Body History tracks the movement of racialized bodies through American history. A fiercely attuned chronicle of the violence and collective trauma of these United States, its “indelible truths” enact corporeality and rage through the thrum of rhythm and repetition and the lush compounding of sounds. It digs down, mapping through language the “surly root formations” of our very foundation. Through these poems we are shown back to ourselves and beseeched to “erase the disaster that has been America” to “run run fly while there is time still.” A masterful chapbook and absolute necessary read.
—Elizabeth J. Colen, author of What Weaponry and The Green Condition