Green River Valley, Robert Lashley’s third poetry collection, is an unapologetic and harrowing look at gentrification, racism, and personal and collective loss in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. With each poem, Lashley asks readers to bear witness to his lived experiences there and to honor the people, places and memories that shaped him alongside the city we know today. Lashley pulls no punches in this collection, which showcases his signature, rhythmic eloquence and acuity more than ever. His narrative threads expose hidden intimacies amid trauma and ambivalence in the face of institutionalized racism. Readers will leave this book asking, how do we build and honor a city’s legacy, and what part did we take in that journey?
Green River Valley is set to release in June 2021. To read one of the poems in the collection, “Value Village Love Poem,” click here.
Cover photography for Green River Valley was created by Jody Poorwill. Learn more about Poorwill and peruse their photography here.
PRAISE FOR Green River Valley
“The superpower of Robert Lashley as a writer in how generously he repeatedly and consistently works to offer you a place within the environments he builds. His relationship with place as a touchable, breathing entity and his desire for you to get there, too. Green River Valley is a book that continues in this lineage. You are present in the poems, with the buildings, with the neighbors and mothers and the songs of birds. So much gratitude for this offering.” — Hanif Abdurraqib, author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Go Ahead in the Rain, and A Fortune for Your Disaster
“Robert Lashley has achieved the impossible. Green River Valley brings the epic scope of history into an intimate kiss with language and the body. After reading this book, you will never be the same, you will see life, love, pain, joy, beliefs, the world, everything you thought you knew, differently. This book is a new kind of existence, one where the hugeness of history and the whisper one person sighing into the night are not distanced, where the voice of God and the voice of the street or the bar or the bus are not separated by a strange and wrong story of heaven separated from earth. Make no mistake, this is holy ground. Take a drink. Dance until you drop. Cry a river. Let desire do what desire does, unbound. This book sings a body back to life. This book is blackness in motion, giving the cosmos and the rest of us a chance to get the story back. And aren’t we lucky to have someone capable of this depth of brilliance threading through language, love and voice? This book will deliver you.” — Lydia Yuknavitch, author of Verge and The Chronology of Water
“Robert Lashley is my ‘Brother Mystic,’ for real. This book is at once a battle, a surrender, and a journey. It is a powerful musing on place and its deep impact on how we experience humanity – both in spite of and because of who we are. Lashley does not shy away from the complexities of Blackness. More specifically, how to be Black and male is to be party to a legacy of exquisite beauty, as well as an historical devotion to misunderstanding and dehumanization. But Lashley knows better and shows the reader, too – through unique, haunting and sometimes disturbingly witty pieces. His work seduces, warns, teaches, and call us forth to receive the blessings of all the places we call home – family, nature, spirit, self – no matter how much they’ve scarred us.” — Kellie Richardson, Tacoma Poet Laureate (2017-2019) and author of What Us Is and The Art of Naming My Pain
“Robert Lashley is part literature scholar, part street preacher. He has long reached equally into the depths of history and culture and into the smoky dives and shadowy street corners of ‘Grit City’—Tacoma, Washington—as fuel for his achingly beautiful poetry. And in Green River Valley, his powers—his rich mind and his wounded soul—blaze in glory like never before.” — Samuel Snoek-Brown, author of There Is No Other Way to Worship Them
“Elegantly sung and astutely political, Robert Lashley’s poems detail the pleasure and violence of everyday life in Green River Valley, on the streets of Tacoma and Seattle, over Salish shores and waterways, among birds in smoke-filled trees. Intellectually ferocious, Lashley’s work situates his vision among both canonical poetic history and contemporary public life. Gentrification and capitalist excess clash with hope and beauty on sidewalks where ‘Winter birds and buzzards … make their wobbly transits. / The last standing deacon could not find his wings / so he lowered his hands in the snow.’ This brilliant book is vital to contemporary literature, a poetic history of a rapidly changing place, a celebration of Black lives lived, and a tour de force critique of the exclusionary literary canon that seeks to marginalize art crafted outside white privilege and the Ivory Tower. The voices in this book tell stories of survival and pain, but also longing and optimism rooted in music and creative engagement. In ‘Value Village,’ Lashley sings of love: ‘My dear around-the-way girl, / dance with me by sale colors. / Time may erase all style to memory / but the intercom is playing our song.’” — Carol Guess, author of Girl Zoo and Doll Studies: Forensics
“Robert Lashley’s poems go beyond the human to find the being. Like Gergely Dudas’ puzzle paintings, he focuses attention on the ordinary until the extraordinary emerges from its midst. There is, in this collection, a longing, a manifesting of the disquiet. Poems as x-rays. Lashley sees the psychological crocodile mingling with underwater vegetation and moves aside the reeds and bulrushes for a judgment-free, clearer view. His intellectual breadth and depth are breathtaking; his intimacy with life-stripped-bare, illuminating.” — Lola E. Peters, editor-at-large for the South Seattle Emerald and author of The Truth About White People and Taboos
“A nation, a myth, a beat, and a revolution walk into a bar. What happens next is extraordinary. Seriously, Green River Valley is a confrontation of powers and the result is a poet on real terms with what it means to love in times of violence and loss, what it means to write in times of silence. These poems aren’t read so much as thumped into the chest, and its truths are unhidden, unmasked. When Lashley writes, “To see is too much. / To not see is much more” I feel like the past and future of any city, but especially Tacoma, make sense.” — Abby E. Murray, Tacoma Poet Laureate (2019-2021) and author of Hail and Farewell
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Lashley is a writer and activist. He was a 2016 Jack Straw Fellow, Artist Trust Fellow, and a nominee for a Stranger Genius Award. He has had work published in The Seattle Review of Books, NAILED, Poetry Northwest, McSweeney’s, and The Cascadia Review. His poetry was also featured in such anthologies as Many Trails to The Summitt, Foot Bridge Above the Falls, Get Lit, Make It True, and It Was Written. His previous books include THE HOMEBOY SONGS (Small Doggies Press, 2014), and UP SOUTH (Small Doggies Press, 2017). In 2019, The Homeboy Songs was named by Entropy Magazine as one of the 25 most essential books to come out of the Seattle area.