How Her Spirit Got Out by Krysten Hill

Winner of the 2017 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize from New England Poetry Club!

December 2016
ISBN 978-1-941143-08-7
54 pages / poetry

Synopsis ‣ Video ‣ Advance Praise ‣ Reviews ‣ About the Author ‣ Excerpt


Krysten Hill’s How Her Spirit Got Out is a lively, urgent song. Answering the writers whose voices raised her, Hill calls on Sylvia Plath, Audre Lorde, and Zora Neale Hurston to help her navigate the complicated landscape of selfhood. Hill’s speaker, wise and direct, open yet elusive, also sings for the women who brought her up: her aunt, her grandmother, and her mother. These spirits who’ve guided her life and taught her through example how black women persevere, have given her the means to bear witness to an age of racial violence. With intensity, audacity, and a darkly comic wit, Hill grapples with the question of how to fight “a city that knows you’re unarmed,” rendering each poem as a weapon and a shield, and using both for self-defense.


“Krysten Hill’s necessary and powerful first collection, How Her Spirit Got Out, is crowded with our family: a father who piles ‘too much food onto my plate,’ ‘black women who go missing,’ ‘a braided clan of women / who held their tongues with their teeth,’ a mama with ‘a voice/that could reach / like an arm and snatch you / from any room of the house.’ These poems are good company, reunion; they laugh with us at our ‘pretty-ugly boys / with dirty fingernails, who never kept / jobs and gave me yeast infections,’ the girlfriend who’s scary until it ‘turns out she’s all talk.  So / are you,’ the bad teacher who asks ‘Is there any way / you can write this poem/from his perspective?’ No.  There isn’t.  Or at least there shouldn’t be. These poems report what it’s too bad we need to know; the horror-show results from googling ‘How to Tame a Wild Woman,’ matter-of-fact tidbits like ‘It’s Not Uncommon for Police to Overestimate the Age and Size of Black Boys,’ places ‘where the trees grew shorter and thick / like a bundle of wrists held together, where the cicadas / screamed louder than she did’ that ache with what they don’t need to say out loud. These poems are a middle finger tucked in the hip pocket of your favorite dress, Audre Lorde’s ‘throwing knife / to hide in your hair,’ grandmother’s ‘rifle mounted on the wall / for the coyotes howling for her chickens at night.'”

— Jill McDonough, author of Habeas Corpus and Where You Live

“Krysten Hill’s poems grab you by the throat and pull you into dark rooms and dark selves. The poems know that ‘the world is full of weapons’ and poisonous legacies that pursue and haunt us–and become knives themselves, daring to carve deep silence into sound and image, into resurrection. These poems exude at once vulnerability, rawness, and lucid beauty.”

— Danielle Legros Georges, author of The Dear Remote Nearness of You,
Poet Laureate, City of Boston


“A fist held up, black and beautiful… This is a collection to be carried along, yes, and spoken aloud.”

— Janice Worthen, Small Press Distribution, SPD Staff Picks

“In Krysten Hill’s poetry, spirit is ghost, breath, language and life… The result is a voice that is beautiful and raw, intimate yet public, both confident and vulnerable.”

— Joyce Peseroff

“What struck me most were poems from Krysten Hill’s How Her Spirit Got Out: whether she’s recording a sister’s reaction to the shooting of her 12-year-old brother or the wreckage of a sweet potato pie, her words are fierce and fearless. Hill confronts us with the dangerous reality of the lives of black women, who may “go missing” because “they knew if they didn’t leave, they’d kill / what they couldn’t afford to nurture” or go missing in another way when they hear a writing workshop leader ask “Is there any way / you can write this poem/ from his perspective?” Hill’s words are precise and potent, and each time you read them, her poems mean more.”

— Sara Backer, Judge for the 2017 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize from New England Poetry Club


Krysten Hill is an educator, writer, and performer who has showcased her poetry on stage at The Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Blacksmith House, Cantab Lounge, Merrimack College, U35 Reading Series, and many others. She received her MFA in poetry from UMass Boston where she currently teaches. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Word Riot, The Baltimore Review, B O D Y, Muzzle, PANK, Winter Tangerine Review, apt, Amethyst Arsenic, Damfino, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award.


Excerpt from How Her Spirit Got Out


Krysten Hill reads at Writers Resist Boston, video courtesy of WGBH Forum Network