Shane McCrae – Hex and Other Poems (Bad Betty Press)



Judges’ Comments

Hex and Other Poems recalls T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. It has the same looping, questing impulses, the same incantatory properties. Here McCrae reprises some of the themes of his other, award-winning work – race-making, mixed race identity, the deep past of racial trauma – but over the course of a mere nine poems. McCrae’s lines are pulled into whorls of meaning, and sent spinning out again, like galaxies. The questions of this work – how to contemplate the past, the appropriate ways to appeal to and commune with one’s ancestors – go marching into the rich dark, and, when they get there, clap back. McCrae’s long poems are ideally suited to the pamphlet form, offering as they do the perfect dose of astral travel.


The White People in My Blood


What do I know about the white

People I don’t know     in my blood

Does their blood pale my father’s where

It meets his blood


Where in my body     does the pale

Blood meet the dark blood?     In my heart

How red     might it have been were my

Blood pure,     my heart


Which red? How much     of which red red

A pale     red, or a dark red,     blood

Red,     heart red? White     blood white as blue day

In the heart,     black blood


In the heart,     black as the breathing sundown

My father’s father’s father’s heart

Might all day long have pounded toward

Then through, whose heart


Kept him awake and running all

Night,     might have, or his father’s blood

Rushing, if either ran.     Who runs

Still in my blood


Who chases?     Whose blood darkens where

They meet? Who fights still     in my heart

For what?     What violence is the beat-

ing of my heart

The 2022 Shortlists

Follow us on Social Media