Tiana Clark


Tiana Clark is the author of the poetry collection, I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), winner of the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and Equilibrium (Bull City Press, 2016), selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Clark is a winner for the 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award (Claremont Graduate University), a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, a recipient of a 2019 Pushcart Prize, a winner of the 2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize, and the 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. She was the 2017-2018 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. Clark is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Sewanee Writers' Conference, and Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (M.F.A) and Tennessee State University (B.A.) where she studied Africana and Women's studies. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Washington Post, VQR, Tin House Online, Kenyon Review, BuzzFeed News, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Oxford American, Best New Poets 2015, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Source

My Therapist Wants to Know about My Relationship to Work

I hustle


I grasp.

                I grind.

I control & panic. Poke

balloons in my chest,

always popping there,

always my thoughts thump,

thump. I snooze — wake & go

boom. All day, like this I short

my breath. I scroll & scroll.

I see what you wrote — I like.

I heart. My thumb, so tired.

My head bent down, but not

in prayer, heavy from the looking.

I see your face, your phone-lit

faces. I tap your food, two times

for more hearts. I retweet.

I email: yes & yes & yes.

Then I cry & need to say: no-no-no.

Why does it take so long to reply?

I FOMO & shout. I read. I never

enough. New book. New post.

New ping. A new tab, then another.

Papers on the floor, scattered & stacked.

So many journals, unbroken white spines,

waiting. Did you hear that new new?

I start to text back. Ellipsis, then I forget.

I balk. I lazy the bed. I wallow when I write.

I truth when I lie. I throw a book

when a poem undoes me. I underline

Clifton: today we are possible. I start

from image. I begin with Phillis Wheatley.

I begin with Phillis Wheatley. I begin

with Phillis Wheatley reaching for coal.

I start with a napkin, receipt, or my hand.

I muscle memory. I stutter the page. I fail.

Hit delete — scratch out one more line. I sonnet,

then break form. I make tea, use two bags.

Rooibos again. I bathe now. Epsom salt.

No books or phone. Just water & the sound

of water filling, glory — be my buoyant body,

bowl of me. Yes, lavender, more bubbles

& bath bomb, of course some candles too.

All alone with Coltrane. My favorite, “Naima,”

for his wife, now for me, inside my own womb.

Again, I child back. I float. I sing. I simple

& humble. Eyes close. I low my voice,

was it a psalm? Don’t know. But I stopped.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Poems of the Everyday

Literary Devices:


an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


the replacement of one part of speech for another, often referred to as a “functional shift.”


a break between words within a metrical foot