The collected life-work of an interdisciplinary writer, performer, and central figure in the Black Gay cultural arts and AIDS movements.
$9.99 – $22.95
In this timely collection of poetry, plays, fiction, and performance texts, Assotto Saint draws upon music and incantation, his Haitian heritage, and a politics of liberation to weaves together a tapestry of literature that celebrates life in the face of death. Influential to contemporary writers such as Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, and Melvin Dixon, Sacred Spells is Saint’s crucial legacy–five hundred incandescent pages of painful, lyric writing that exemplifies the visceral, spiritual dimensions of an artistic practice that’s integral to Black and LGBTQ activist movements worldwide, both historic and present.
The moment I open this marvelous, energetic, vital, forward thinking testament to the will to create a new world, well, it all came flooding back. Assotto was a man who created community, who brought people along with his…yes…revolutionary vision. And the fragmented nature of this volume accurately reminds us of the brilliance and courage cut short. A necessary addition that speaks directly to our world.
Sacred Spells is the work of a gay Black poet who indeed possessed a giant mind, talent, heart, and ferocity… when the AIDS pandemic raged as the COVID pandemic rages now in the US and across the globe; when we remember the casualties, the terrible losses, the gross homophobia, racism, and crimes against humanity enacted by our government against queer and trans people; when we think of the beacons, the self-ordained priests who carried us through that time, we often think and speak of Assotto Saint.
The road before us looms as an infernal horizon, then metamorphoses and appears as the cyclical Phoenix at the crossroads of life, an intersection of evolution and revolution, where we—baptized in the righteous anger of the Haitian Saint Assotto—forgive and heal in the knowledge that none of us is a cosmic orphan.
Je ne regrette rien!
Assotto Saint swept in, like Dorothy Dandridge if she’d been allowed to play Cleopatra: tall, regal, perfectly made up, moving as if on a Milan runway with an authority unlike any poet I’d ever seen. When Assotto spoke, it was like French silk fabric snapped out over you. The sound of his voice was mesmerizing; the weight of his words punched through to your heart and your brain. Now when we read him, we should do so out loud so his voice can echo in our ears. His works are rituals and magic spells meant to draw us in and bend us to prayer. Lines vibrate with an anger that should be heard out loud. And if you imagine the soft lilt of patois the hope is heard too. ‘IT’S ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY/IN AMERICA/A // PARODY OF THE GREATEST COUNTRY/IT NEVER // WAS/BUT COULD STILL BE.’ In his voice, both mellifluous and raw, we find both brotherhood and sisterhood. He said, ‘on my resume write survivor.’
“… writing across genres with a fluidity and ferocity that allowed him to shapeshift without losing vigor or agility. In whatever avenue you encounter it, Saint’s work is alive with humans and nature, sex and grief, the zeniths of Black queer life and the perils of the AIDS crisis.”
“A powerful tribute to a trailblazing LGBTQ artist.”
“Assotto Saint was, first and foremost, a war poet. He was a poet of the AIDS war and more than that, he was a poet of the black voices of the AIDS war, the unheard, unmentioned voices that he was desperate to keep alive in any way he could.”
Sacred Spells is Saint’s crucial legacy: five hundred incandescent pages of painful, lyric writing that exemplifies the visceral, spiritual dimensions of an artistic practice that’s integral to Black and LGBTQ activist movements worldwide, both historic and present.
Assotto Saint faces disaster directly and fiercely throughout Sacred Spells, his collected works. His poetry, essays, stories, and plays document, celebrate, and grieve the lives and deaths of his friends and partner dying of AIDS at the height of the epidemic in the 1980s. The pages and pages of elegies, written before Saint himself died from AIDS in 1994, serve as powerful reminders of the unforgivable toll queer communities have paid and still pay—as well as the wild beauty cultivated in that instability. . . Within poems, too, Saint responds to that willful ignorance and inaction, wrestling back his authority to define himself and his community.
Photo by Becket Logan
A key figure in LGBTQ+, African American and Haitian art and literary culture of the 1980s and early 1990s, Assotto Saint was a trailblazer who heavily …