Bluest Nude

Winner of the Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

“How beautifully seen, tended, and rendered are our many Black lives under this poet’s exquisite gaze…Bluest Nude is an ecstatic encounter.”—TRACY K. SMITH
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Winner of the Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
Winner of a Whiting Award
Finalist for the 2024 Kate Tufts Discovery Award
Finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work

Ama Codjoe’s highly anticipated debut collection brings generous light to the inner dialogues of women as they bathe, create art, make and lose love. Each poem rises with the urgency of a fully awakened sensual life.

Codjoe’s poems explore how the archetype of the artist complicates the typical expectations of women: be gazed upon, be silent, be selfless, reproduce. Dialoguing with and through art, Bluest Nude considers alternative ways of holding and constructing the self. From Lorna Simpson to Gwendolyn Brooks to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, contemporary and ancestral artists populate Bluest Nude in a choreography of Codjoe’s making. Precise and halting, this finely wrought, riveting collection is marked by an acute rendering of highly charged emotional spaces.

Purposefully shifting between the role of artist and subject, seer and seen, Codjoe’s poems ask what the act of looking does to a person—public looking, private looking, and that most intimate, singular spectacle of looking at one’s self. What does it mean to see while being seen? In poems that illuminate the tension between the possibilities of openness and its impediments, Bluest Nude offers vulnerability as a medium to be immersed in and, ultimately, shared as a kind of power: “There are as many walls inside me / as there are bones at the bottom of the sea,” Codjoe writes in the masterful titular poem. “I want to be seen clearly or not at all.”

“The end of the world has ended,” Codjoe’s speaker announces, “and desire is still / all I crave.”
Startling and seductive in equal measure, this formally ambitious collection represents a powerful, luminous beginning.

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Ama Codjoe

Ama Codjoe is the author of Bluest Nude. She is also the author of Blood of the Air, winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. Her honors include a 2017 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship, and a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship. Codjoe’s work has twice appeared in The Best American Poetry. She lives in New York City.

Praise and Prizes

  • “The hotly burning poems in Codjoe’s debut collection collapse themes of color and body into a lyrical supernova.”

    Booklist, starred review
  • “In this frequently gripping debut, Codjoe offers precisely crafted poems dealing with desire, memory, art, and ancestry.”

    Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “Sensual, sound-driven, and brimming with a necessary truth, the poems in Bluest Nude are pulsating with both grief and beauty. Wrought out of resurrection and reclaiming, these brilliant poems honor the mystery and legacy of the body. Codjoe has written a true triumph of a debut that feels urgent and deeply human.”

    Ada Limón
  • “How beautifully seen, tended, and rendered are our many Black lives under this poet’s exquisite gaze. In appetite and loss, rage and praise, what animates these poems is a profound cherishing, an abiding (and yet at every turn surprising) love rushing out from the lush wilderness of Ama Codjoe’s rapturous imagination. Bluest Nude is an ecstatic encounter.”

    Tracy K. Smith
  • “It is hard to find words for the fineness of Ama Codjoe’s poetry, its unabashed and luminous vibrancy. She unframes old myths about beauty and femininity and care to bring them intimately into the experience of the body where she forges far more supple visions. Her language is so rich and resourceful that, as it enlarges lyric possibilities, it also enlarges human ones. Never have I been so convinced that the desire to know oneself and the desire to be the agent of one’s own radical self-making can be audacious and brilliant collaborators.”

    Mary Szybist
  • “Codjoe’s poems made me ache in the best way. These poems call forward our many mothers—in pictures and pages—they create a vibrant salon pulsing with the confidence of a poet’s urgent, material response. Exquisitely balanced between premonition and memory, Bluest Nude is a gathering and conjuring of improvisation and reflection, sensuality and joy, call and response.”

    Ellen Gallagher
  • “Yes, listen. Listen. Ama Codjoe’s writing is too eloquent not the hear.”

    Ed Roberson
    from the introduction to Blood of the Air
  •  “Fiercely intelligent and both emotionally and formally rich.”

    Library Journal
  • “Bluest Nude is a heady mix of ekphrastic and archival poems…Codjoe conjures the unmistakable textures of Black Americana.”

    Layla Benitez-James, Poetry Foundation
  • “If seeing were easy, we wouldn’t need poetry. That’s one of the implications of Ama Codjoe’s startling debut, Bluest Nude. The poems are portraits—glimpses—of a poet who wants ‘to be seen clearly or not at all.’… [Bluest Nude is] steeped brilliantly in the urgency of the contemporary hunger to know what we really are. There’s a quiet joy possible, too, in that difficult pursuit.”

    Jesse Nathan, McSweeney’s
  • Bluest Nude is a sensual, seductive, and luminous collection of poetry that draws the reader in with tenderness, vulnerability, and desire. These poems simultaneously satisfy while leaving you with an aching need for more.”

    Christine Bollow, Between Drafts