Bottom Rail on Top

By (author): D.M. Bradford

A rolling call and response between antebellum Black history and the present that mediates it.

Somewhere in the cut between Harriet Jacobs and surveillance, Southampton and sneaker game, Lake Providence and the supply chain, Bottom Rail on Top sets off a mediation between the complications of legacy and selfhood. In a kind of archives-powered unmooring of the linear progress story, award-winning poet D.M. Bradford fragments and recomposes American histories of antebellum Black life and emancipation, and stages the action in tandem with the matter of his own life. Amidst echoes and complicities, roots and flights, lineage and mastery, it’s a story of stories told in knots and asides, held together with paper trails, curiosities, and hooks — a study that doesn’t end.


D.M. Bradford

Darby Minott Bradford is a poet, translator and curator based in Tio’tia:ke (Montreal). His first book, Dream of No One but Myself, won the 2022 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry and was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award, and the Griffin Poetry Prize. House Within a House, Bradford’s translation of Nicholas Dawson’s award-winning Désormais, ma demeure, was also published in 2023.


“Not a collection of poetry but the sound of an opening door. Not a book but a tree on the riverbank. Not a line but a kinetic archive. Not a text but a heart. Not a page but a scene of the author at sunrise. Not a day but the gathering of the senses. Not a moment but the heavy low of another place.” — Jordan Abel, author of Injun and NISHGA

“What leads to what’s not poems, not fragments, but salvos?precise and loose?reported out the archive, which is to say the graveyard where the dead die again and again? Is it the sexual assaults, the drownings, that Black head on a stick? The repetitions that require revisions of what remains the same? D.M. Bradford’s Bottom Rail on Top composes a searing slo-mo recoil from the historical record. Slow enough to seem unflinching; but Bradford keeps us in the reel, blurring time, space, and source into an account of grief and dismay. In the cut lies trenchant invention, what must be called gallows humor, and what could be called restraint. I call it “brilliant.” — Douglas Kearney author of Sho

“These poems, these ‘not a poem/but likkle truths,’ are where we land first, but what is it to be in stories, memory, the little remembered, the echo and the ‘scrawl’? D.M. Bradford’s Bottom Rail on Top isn’t a redress, it’s more; there are so many lines to highlight in these pages, each of which could better represent what I’d want to say. This is a tremendous gift and I’m so lucky to have spent time with this work.” — Otoniya J. Okot Bitek, author of 100 Days, A is for Acholi, and Song & Dread

Bottom Rail on Top pulls apart and knits together fields, streets, regions, lakes, and attics. Employing a poetics of vestige, black worlds are, all at once, refuted and made visible, emptied out and sharply populated; a black sense of place emerges as curtailment. This is a beautiful expression of black livingness, wherein racial violence conditions a poetics of struggle, refusal and repetition.” — Katherine McKittrick, author of Demonic Grounds and Dear Science and Other Stories


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144 Pages
8.50in * 5.60in * .60in


September 01, 2023


Brick Books



Book Subjects:

POETRY / American / African American & Black

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