National Book Award Longlist
Lambda Literary Award Finalist
- Locating the Self: Intertextual Poetic Strategies
- An Evening with Charif Shanahan
“A master of shaping his dialectic through lyrical groundwork. Calm and potent.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Lyrical and unforgiving…a rare kind of poet.”—Ilya Kaminsky
“Revelatory and pulsating with truth, Trace Evidence is a dangerously wise book of poems. Each poem is full of muscular music and meticulously carved out of longing as they ask, not just why we live, but how we live, and for whom. Wholly human and deeply rooted in attention, this book is for anyone who has ever questioned where they belonged.” ―Ada Limón
“Charif Shanahan is examining race and sexuality in ways I have not seen… A necessary voice.” ―Natasha Trethewey
Born in the Bronx to an Irish-American father and a Moroccan mother, Charif Shanahan is the author of two collections of poetry: Trace Evidence (Tin House, 2023), which was Longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry; and Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry/SIU Press, 2017), his meditative and trenchant debut which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Thom Gunn Award.
In arresting lyric poems, Shanahan centers the racial periphery and explores the impact of our colonial pasts (and present) on the most intimate aspects of our lives. Ocean Vuong praised Trace Evidence as “astute, subversively reserved, and propulsive… a truly magical achievement.” The collection has received wide praise for its ability to pursue universal spiritual questions through the lens of our most urgent social issues, with remarkable lyric precision: the result is a deeply poignant meditation on human separateness, rooted equally in the physical and metaphysical worlds, that reaches beyond constructed social divisions to our shared humanity.
Shanahan is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; the Wallace Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lectureship at Stanford University; a Fulbright Senior Scholar Grant to Morocco; and residency fellowships from Cave Canem Foundation, Hawthornden Foundation in Griante, Italy, the MacDowell Colony, Millay Colony for the Arts, La Maison Baldwin in St Paul, France, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, among other awards and recognitions.
Shanahan’s poems appear widely, in such journals as American Poetry Review, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and PBS NewsHour. His work has been anthologized in American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time (Graywolf Press, 2018), Furious Flower’s Seeding the Future of African American Poetry (Northwestern, 2019), and African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (Library of America, 2020).
He holds a BA in Comparative Literature and Creative Writing from Princeton University; an MA in Comparative Literature and Literary Translation from Dartmouth College; and an MFA in Poetry from NYU’s Graduate Creative Writing Program. Former Programs Director of the Poetry Society of America, he has taught literature and language at California College of the Arts (CCA), the Collegio di Milano (Italy), New York University, and Stanford University. He is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Northwestern University.
Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing
In this affecting poetry debut, Charif Shanahan explores what it means to be fully human in our wounded and divided world. In poised yet unrelenting lyric poems, Shanahan—queer and mixed-race—confronts the challenges of a complex cultural inheritance, informed by colonialism and his mother’s immigration to the United States from Morocco, navigating racial constructs, sexuality, family, and the globe in search of “who we are to each other . . . who we are to ourselves.” With poems that weave from Marrakesh to Zürich to London, through history to the present day, this book is, on its surface, an uncompromising exploration of identity in personal and collective terms. Yet the collection is, most deeply, about intimacy and love, the inevitability of human separation and the challenge of human connection. Urging us to reexamine our own place in the broader human tapestry, Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing announces the arrival of a powerful and necessary new voice.
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• Read “Fig Tree” by Charif Shanahan – Poetry Foundation
• Read “Ligament” by Charif Shanahan – New York Times
When I say But mother, Black or not Black,
Of course you are polyethnic, your look does not change
Though it does harden, a drying clay bust
Abandoned or deliberately incomplete,
All the features carved in
Except the eyes. What I’m trying—
I mean—You are an Arab, yes,
By culture, by language, and in part by blood; by blood
You are also Black African—and when, then, I say
And also probably a fair amount of European, too—the lights,
Though we’re standing at the corner of 195th and Jerome,
Turn up somehow
Tracing an outline of you onto the armory’s sharp red brick, the El
Barreling up from the tunnel like a surge of magma reaching
For air and as I wait for it to pass so that you can
Hear me again, so that I can hear myself at last
Say But here, for me, that doesn’t exactly matter. Don’t you see—?
Your face hangs on the fair of fair amount—heavy drops
Of oil, or old rain, falling onto us from the tracks—almost willing away
The layer of long-dead men flattened onto it, and the desperate
Rest of you, until I say with my looking
Through the unbearable human noise, My darling sweet mother, it is
Fine, it is fine. For us here now I will be the first of our line.