King Kong Theory
The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic
Books

Field Study

9780374722647 fc
Paperback, FSG Originals, 2021
200078899

Chet'la Sebree

more about author

Winner of the 2020 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets

"Layered, complex, and infinitely compelling, Chet’la Sebree’s Field Study is a daring exploration of the self and our interactions with others—a meditation on desire, race, loss and survival." --Natasha Trethewey, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Memorial Drive

Chet’la Sebree’s Field Study is a genre-bending exploration of black womanhood and desire, written as a lyrical, surprisingly humorous, and startlingly vulnerable prose poem


I am society’s eraser shards—bits used to fix other people’s sh*t, then discarded. Somehow still a wet nurse, from actual babes to Alabama special elections.

Seeking to understand the fallout of her relationship with a white man, the poet Chet’la Sebree attempts a field study of herself. Scientifically, field studies are objective collections of raw data, devoid of emotion. But during the course of a stunning lyric poem, Sebree’s control over her own field study unravels as she attempts to understand the depth of her feelings in response to the data of her life. The result is a singular and provocative piece of writing, one that is formally inventive, playfully candid, and soul-piercingly sharp.

Interspersing her reflections with Tweets, quips from TV characters, and excerpts from the Black thinkers—Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Tressie McMillan Cottom—that inspire her, Sebree analyzes herself through the lens of a society that seems uneasy, at best, with her very presence. She grapples with her attraction to, and rejection of, whiteness and white men; probes the malicious manifestation of colorism and misogynoir throughout American history and media; and struggles with, judges, and forgives herself when she has more questions than answers. “Even as I accrue these notes,” Sebree writes, “I’m still not sure I’ve found the pulse.”

A poem of love, heartbreak, womanhood, art, sex, Blackness, and America—sometimes all at once—Field Study throbs with feeling, searing and tender. With uncommon sensitivity and precise storytelling, Sebree makes meaning out of messiness and malaise, breathing life into a scientific study like no other.

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  • "Chet’la Sebree’s Field Study is a long look at those aspects of a self that are often most difficult to look at—chiefly, the woundedness from which we make our loves, and the wounding loves we both flee and mourn. In prose poetry that at crucial moments brilliantly enacts via its syntax the poet’s struggle to look away from that which she must record, Sebree has composed an elegy that is, especially in its music, as alive as a celebration."


    Shane McCrae, author of The Gilded Auction Block

  • "Woven from the rough threads of race, legacy, and love, Field Study is a groundbreaking book that vibrates with truth and lyrical beauty. A profound poetic talent, Chet'la Sebree has created a brilliant book that both haunts and heals."


    Ada Limón, author of The Carrying

  • "Layered, complex, and infinitely compelling, Chet’la Sebree’s Field Study is a daring exploration of the self and our interactions with others—a mediation on desire, race, loss and survival."

    Natasha Trethewey, author of Memorial Drive