In Testify, published by Octopus Books, Simone’s first full-length book of poems, she experiments with documentary poetics to uplift stories of black people impacted by state-sanctioned violence. The book’s first section weaves Rachel Jeantel’s testimony in the Trayvon Martin trial with Kendrick Lamar lyrics, fixed form and found poems, and personal artifacts. The second section centers on the audio of the dashboard recording that captured Sandra Bland’s fatal police encounter. Excerpts from this exchange are punctuated with elegies for other dead black women, creating a larger commentary about race and gender-based violence. Testify is ultimately a book of witness. It “burdens” its readers “with knowing” and serves as an unflinching critique of race and gender supremacy in the United States.
Simone John is a poet, educator, and freelance writer based in Boston, MA. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College with an emphasis on documentary poetics. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Wildness, The Pitkin Review, Public Pool, and the Writer in the World. She is a contributing editor at Gramma Poetry.