Eve Ewing, poet, scholar, artist and educator
reads from her debut book
with Amber Rose Johnson, UPenn Africana Studies, English
and Kai Davis, Philly Pigeon Collective
co-sponsored by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
Electric Arches is an imaginative exploration of Black girlhood and womanhood through poetry, visual art, and narrative prose.
Blending stark realism with the surreal and fantastic, Eve L. Ewing’s narrative takes us from the streets of 1990s Chicago to an unspecified future, deftly navigating the boundaries of space, time, and reality. Ewing imagines familiar figures in magical circumstances—blues legend Koko Taylor is a tall-tale hero; LeBron James travels through time and encounters his teenage self. She identifies everyday objects—hair moisturizer, a spiral notebook—as precious icons.
Her visual art is spare, playful, and poignant—a cereal box decoder ring that allows the wearer to understand what Black girls are saying; a teacher’s angry, subversive message scrawled on the chalkboard. Electric Arches invites fresh conversations about race, gender, the city, identity, and the joy and pain of growing up.
Eve L. Ewing is a writer, scholar, artist, and educator from Chicago. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, New Republic, The Nation, The Atlantic, and many other publications. She is a sociologist at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.
This event is FREE, but please register at Eventbrite
“Striking and visionary… a stunning debut.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“In her genre-defying debut, Eve Ewing is imagining a future of hope and safety for all the kids of Chicago.” —Chicago Reader
“Electric Arches is a complicated love letter to Chicago… a reminder that magic is made of asphalt and chain-link fences, the lives we painfully live in our childhoods where imagination offers us bodily escape.” —The Millions
“A formally inventive portrait of blackness, of womanhood, Electric Arches delivers both hope and brutal honesty... an inspired debut that reaches beyond the inscribed to the imagined.” —Guernica
“Spellbinding... these poems will change you for the better. They will make you whole.” —Well Read Black Girl
“A tender letter to black youth.” —Pacific Standard
“Again and again reading Eve Ewing’s Electric Arches I felt some blooming in my body, or some flock of herons batting into the air in my body, which I think was indicating something like joy at witnessing the imagination at work in these poems, the imagination borne of rigorous attention coupled with critical love. Thankfully, there’s a word for all that: tenderness. And the joy is that we learn tenderness by witnessing it. Which is to say, and it’s not too much to say, this book is one of the maps to our survival.” –Ross Gay, author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
“Of course she had me at Koko Taylor. She had me again at shea butter and Ron Artest and especially at an eerily intriguing fur suit. This is an effusive celebration of black girlhood in all its muted but relentless sparkle, a tenacious exploration of all its lives, the wide-aloud witnessing of a born storyteller slicing her two-wheeler through the streets of a broken and boisterous city. You won't believe this is Eve Ewing's first book. It's that assured, that crafted. Ever heard Koko Taylor's guttural growl, the lyric that floors you like a backhand slap? It's that too.” –Patricia Smith
“Reading Eve L. Ewing’s Electric Arches is such an awakening and active experience— this book time travels, makes myth, immerses, paints, opens pathways. This is a living and breathing document, memoir and map, guidebook and scroll. 'Recall this,' writes Ewing in 'Shea Butter Manifesto,' both as invitation and as spellbinding command. I’m awestruck by the rigor and intimacy of this book, by its insistent love for both black past and black future. Ewing leaves no unnamed ritual uncovered, no implicit idiom uncelebrated. This book is a gift, a visual and lyrical offering to be treasured as gospel.” –Morgan Parker, author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé
"I didn't think it was possible for one book to contain work and worlds that would be loved by eight year olds and eighty year olds, jr high school dropouts and emeritus english professors. I didn't think it was possible for one book to contain the emotional sweat of Chicago, Dorchester and Yazoo City, Mississippi. I didn't think it was possible for one book to make us smell the residue of classroom erasers, empty White Castle bags and wet wondrous balls of Black girl hair clinging to the bottoms of bathtubs. With Electrics Arches, Eve Ewing has written a book I thought was un-write-able. The book is as precise as it is ambitious, pulling equally on shared memories and individual imagination. Every page feels like a beginning and end, an invitation and conclusion, but never in that order. Somehow Eve Ewing created a book that is at once formally spectacular and grounded enough to ask readers the two most important questions in art: will you stop to remember with me and will you help me change the world with that memory. Electric Arches is alive." –Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division