Virtual Book Club October Read featuring Horsepower by Joy Priest

October 5, 2020

Image of Joy Priest and book Horsepower

AWP Virtual Book Club welcomes a discussion on the newly-released Horsepower (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020) by Joy Priest, winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. Author Allison Pitnii Davis heralds the book as “a poetic exploration of gender, race, and class in Louisville, Kentucky…” and provides an accompanying literary mapping experience.

Priest has facilitated poetry workshops with incarcerated juvenile and adult women and has taught writing, comedy, and African American Arts & Culture at the university level. Priest joins the AWP Virtual Book Club this month in a discourse about her much-anticipated collection of poems. Though already sold out, the book can still be ordered through Carmichael’s Bookstore. In a Q&A with the University of Pittsburgh Press, Joy Priest discusses Horsepower, Louisville, and Breonna Taylor. Also included is the poem “Nightstick” from Horsepower.

Chelsea McLin, Registration and Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator for AWP, will interview Joy Priest. Their discussion on Horsepower will premiere on YouTube, Wednesday, October 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Register for this event to receive a reminder and a direct link to the video on the day of the premiere. The premiere will also include a live Q&A chat with Joy Priest.

*Registering is free, and you do not have to be a member of AWP to do so. However, to participate in the live Q&A, you must be signed into YouTube.

Join the Discussion

Prior to the premiere, join in discussion with fellow book club participants in the AWP Community of Writers Facebook group. Each week, on the dates listed below, a new discussion question will be posted in the Facebook group. Comment on the discussion post to participate! Joy Priest will also join the discussion on the dates marked with an asterisk below.

All active discussions are from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET on the dates below, but please feel free to respond via the comments at any time.

  • Friday, October 9, 2020: Discussion #1 on Horsepower will post in the Facebook group with Joy Priest*
  • Friday, October 16, 2020: Discussion #2 posted
  • Friday, October 23, 2020: Discussion #3 with Joy Priest*

Purchase the Book

To purchase Horsepower, please visit Carmichael’s Bookstore, as this collection of poems is temporarily sold out.


Priest’s debut collection, Horsepower, is a cinematic escape narrative that radically envisions a daughter’s waywardness as aspirational. Across the book’s three sequences, we find the black-girl speaker in the midst of a self-imposed exile, going back in memory to explore her younger self—a mixed-race child being raised by her white supremacist grandfather in the shadow of Churchill Downs, Kentucky’s world-famous horseracing track—before arriving in a state of self-awareness to confront the personal and political landscape of a harshly segregated Louisville. Out of a space that is at once southern and urban, violent and beautiful, racially-charged and working-class, she attempts to transcend her social and economic circumstances. Across the collection, Priest writes a horse that acts as a metaphysical engine of flight, showing us how to throw off the harness and sustain wildness. Unlike the traditional Bildungsroman, Priest presents a non-linear narrative in which the speaker lacks the freedom to come of age naively in the urban South, and must instead, from the beginning, possess the wisdom of “the horses & their restless minds.”

About the Author

Joy Priest is the author of Horsepower (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She is the recipient of the 2020 Kunitz Prize, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, APRThe AtlanticPoetry Northwest, and Poets & Writers, among others. She is currently a doctoral student in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Houston. 



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