The Bitter Map by Crystal Boson

The Bitter Map Final.png
The Bitter Map Final.png

The Bitter Map by Crystal Boson


Poetry Winner of the 2017 Honeysuckle Chapbook Contest, chosen by Saeed Jones

The Bitter Map is a restless arc of poems, collecting rituals, warnings, and survival stories. These poems offer guidance to Black and queer folks on how to survive in hostile landscapes, and draw up religious, cultural and land memory maps to help them find a way back home. Learn in this book the ways trauma tethers itself through ancestry, the chameleon face of bigotry, the cataclysm that the elements rain down onto its most vulnerable spectators.

The Bitter Map dictates a trail marked by the inescapable. Something always breathing down the neck; hot winds ushering in a storm, the humid breath of white fragility. The Bitter Map is a tale of forced migration and a collection of the necessary stories along the way. This book will lead you to the gospel in the soil, just beneath the surface.

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About the Book

Paperback chapbook, 42 pages
Release date: July 1st 2018
Cover Design: Peter Barnfather



Praise for The Bitter Map

"The Bitter Map is a world pocked with the memory of trauma, place, and power. This voice knows prayer and pain and sweat and work and how to make do when god forgets your face: "crawdads in the carpet / means we ain’t gonna starve  / go on an wait out the rain / we can’t move on out / what the devil moves in.” The devil is there in rain, in work, and in perhaps our very understanding of citizenship itself -- reminding us that perseverance is a path of disruption within the map of our oppressive United States."

— Saeed Jones, 2017 Honeysuckle Chapbook Contest judge

"The Bitter Map is a saturation and a reckoning, where rains come and levees fail, and people know the need for a strong-bottomed tub. Where there is water, there is also heat, and the land boils with sun and fire ants, and ricochets against the body. Here, the difference between meat and muscle, prayer and song, is found only in the tongue.”

— Donika Kelly, author of Bestiary

"The Bitter Map claims a space between God and earthly violence while arguing against the possibility of such a space: “in these flood seasons / the bayous fill up / and God shows us / the white of His mouth.” Poem by poem it proves itself to be a map to that space, as well as to the other impossible space we must inhabit—the space between the self and the other, which is both bigger than the entire world and smaller than the smallest word."

 Shane McCrae, author of In The Language of My Captor



An Excerpt




About the Author


Crystal Boson makes poems that look like her body: made of dark matter. They are short, dense and vicious. She is a Southern, specifically Texan writer, that can sometimes handle living in the Midwest.

She is a Cave Canem fellow, former academic and perpetual reader. She has published poems in Callaloo, Pank, The Black Bottom, Beechers, The Watershed Review, and Parcel and has two chapbooks: the queer texas prayerbook and the icarus series with Seven Kitchens Press.  In 2014, she was awarded the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award and her poem, Kansas up south, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2015. She is currently working on her first full collection, bitter map. You can see her other writing and performances at:

Read our interview with Crystal here.