Oracle: A Cosmology by Destiny Hemphill

Oracle A Cosmology Final Cover.png
Oracle A Cosmology Final Cover.png

Oracle: A Cosmology by Destiny Hemphill


2017 Honeysuckle Chapbook Contest Poetry Finalist

Introduction by Mahogany Browne

Oracle: A Cosmology explores lineage and family narrative by meditating on questions of loss, haunting, resistance, and personal & communal liberation. Entangling narratives of women who have been honed by hardship, this chapbook exists as an archive of intimate kin history. In weaving these true myths, Destiny makes the familial cosmic. Dissolving boundaries between theory and poetry, fiction and self-memorializing, prayers and manifestoes, these poems often subvert forms to fully illuminate sites of melancholy, resilience, and the imagination of alternate realms of being.

Exploring memory and mourning, Oracle: a Cosmology gestures towards the possibility of loss as generative and transformative, and grief as a channel to the divinity that is within. In these poems, healing is not linear, but a disruptive and sacred process. Destiny confesses, yes, i still remember how it feels to be / under the swollen tongue of a god’s gaping mouth. This cosmology is one for the people, and the people, they are ethereal.

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About the Book

Paperback chapbook, 38 pages
Release date: July 13 2018
Cover Design: Peter Barnfather



Praise for Oracle: A Cosmology

"What is more dangerous than a black girl that understands the etymology of her own name? What is more dangerous than a black girl that taunts her haints and jumps ropes with heirloom’d nooses, writing her own freedom? Speaking with a dialect of “been here” taught unapologetically by the likes of Zora Neale Hurston and writing with the new hand of Ntozake Shange, Hemphill’s poems are prayers and blueprint. Are inquisition and reclamation. In the hands of our black ass hands, these poems are pulpy and lush and dangerous in its reckoning. Black girls with this kind of awakening have always been a force, eclipsing your basic ideas of who we be. "

— Mahogany Browne, from her introduction

"There is a radical, revelatory hunger in these poems; it weaves through you as you devour them, demanding of your body a full blood-response. Get ready. Destiny Hemphill has built for us a feral collage of voices—ancestral and present, both equal parts delicate and audacious. Her work is spare, unapologetic & transcendent, pulling into focus the shimmering brilliance & terrible vulnerability of being a Black womxn who refuses to be un-made: i come from the stars / no, i’m no beam of light / yes, i am the burning / but mostly the pockets of black heaven, / black aether / in between.”

Rachel McKibbens, author of Blud

"Ack right is a juice, a liquid—like what fills you, washes you; but could also douse your fire or drown you. Depending on who pours. Destiny Hemphill's Oracle: A Cosmology eyes the hands that tilt the cups. In these high-definition snapshots, Destiny freezes the flow, asking, by turns: Are you thirsty? Are you that thirsty? It all depends on who pours. Drink down this ill elixir of monstrous magic and simmering memory Destiny Hemphill's poured up. Get your ass on this ack right."

Douglas Kearney, author of Buck Studies

"Oracle: A Cosmology is a staggering world of a book. Destiny Hemphill gorgeously messes colonial archives that dictate saving occurs through conquering. These poems exist in and on her terms. But here “her” does not mark the boundary of an ego; “her” is a binding to “mama-n-em,” southern black womxn who come before and alongside. Where those most American rituals of mysoginior (attempt to) disappear the bodies and interior lives of black womxn, Oracle holds forth lineages and possibilities of black femme loving, forging tongues and other maps that lead back and forward to the roving, infinite self. These poems shake the dirt from the roots until the nourishing truth gleams."

— Claire Schwartz, author of Bound



An excerpt


dna is just anotha theory for reincarnation: me, sitting in a burning tree (c. 4063)

Originally published in  Winter Tangerine

Originally published in Winter Tangerine



About the Author

Destiny Hemphill is a poet and healer based in Durham, NC. She is a 2017 Callaloo Fellow and 2016 Amiri Baraka Poetry Scholar at Naropa University's Summer Writing Program. Her work has been featured in Narrative Northeast, Scalawag, The Wanderer, and Button Poetry. 


Read our interview with Destiny here.