the skin of dreams



By Quraysh Ali Lansana

A 2020 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award Winner!



By Quraysh Ali Lansana

the skin of dreams is a remembering, an offering and a gathering of geographies. Traversing twenty-three years of earth and breath, Quraysh Ali Lansana’s first new and collected works roadmaps small town Oklahoma to southside Chicago in compelling poems that question, surprise and dare. As a direct descendent of the Black Arts Movement and last student of Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, Lansana explores the complicated internal and external terrain of Blackness and history from a post-King, post-Kennedy childhood through the election of the first non-White president while grappling with the definition of home. These are poems that cry, sing, scream and see.


Praise for the skin of dreams:

“There are reasons why this book should be put in a capsule and sent into space so everyone in the next galaxy could see, hear, and understand, what it was to be black in America. Heritage. Heritage. Heritage, from the poet’s great-great grandfather; to the poems in Harriet Tubman’s voice.” Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books

“Reading these gripping, and, at times, funny poems is an education and delight as they chart a poet’s evolution from childhood infatuations to youthful trials to fatherhood and middle age . . . The Skin of Dreams is a robust must-read, a perfect addition to every poetry collection.” Raúl Niño BooklistStarred Review

“Quraysh Ali Lansana has woven a roadmap of poems and prophecy from Tulsa to Chicago, slowly breaking open the voices of history with each step. Here is a friendship journey, a father/son Southside Chi meditation for the 21st century blues.  Follow the path on these pages to enter your own skin.” Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize winner, Olio

“In Quraysh Ali Lansana, we find our griot singing both his history and our own in the skin of dreams, and what a soulful chord he strikes—and has been striking!—throughout the years. There’s ‘language echoing itself,’ extending the cadences of Chicago and Tulsa and beyond, and finding the music in them. ‘I mean these words/ these words I mean,’ they celebrate the work put in and they chronicle the dedication Lansana has put into keeping history current, chronicling the human experience through the African American presence. In this gift of New and Selected poems, he ‘captures present moments fleeting seconds’ understanding ‘we will never be here again,’ but we’re grateful for his song, which keeps harkening back while pushing us forward.”  A. Van Jordan, Author of Rise and Quantum Lyrics

“We know now that such a luxuriant heart and palatial intelligence as one encounters in the skin of dreams: 1995-2018 creates its own ecosystem of insights and conjure. Poetry as more than a decorative furnishing in American literature, Lansana extends and reifies a long tradition of communal voicings, political activism, and social engagement but not at the expense of his own self-hood. Nor do his poems ever threaten to eclipse the inhabitants of his world – family, elders, brethren, ancestors — nor their glorious history of struggle and survival. And yes, here, too, is a response to assaults on black life. Yet, steadfast and lyrical, his voice is compelling on its own, dignifying and virtuous as any sound that accords with the righteous.” Major Jackson, Author of Roll Deep and Hoops

“Quraysh Ali Lansana is a poet of such power, grace, and witness: how glorious it is to have the many threads of his work drawn into this stark and heartbreaking collection. the skin of dreams sings the country: our false skins, lies, and violence; our loves and sorrows, complexities and hollowness; our unhealed, and perhaps unhealable, wounds. Q starts in his home territory, the blood red soil of Oklahoma, where he grew up in the bloody heart of the nation, and his witness radiates outward, to Chicago and New York, to the past, the present, the future. In these home-haunted verses he mourns our losses, celebrates family, friends, fatherhood, tells us what the country is, has been, can be. i heard wind & prayer & dirt, he says, & the caution of elders in my skin. Dip in anywhere: you’ll hear that same wind, that same caution, sorrow and mourning, wisdom and grief, sung like the earth humming, like prayer.” Rilla Askew, Author of Most American and Kind of Kin