In this ambitious and cutting-edge follow-up to Barbarian at the Gate, poet Xavier Cavazos explores the intersections of race, agriculture, history, and plant genus to focus more clearly on the life and times of Iowa State University alumnus, George Washington Carver. Cavazos employs both personal and narrative structure with unapologetic delivery on the page to recreate Carver’s living and social environments at the university and beyond.
“As Ralph Ellison would have it, a Yam is a Yam. And to Mr. Carver, a Peanut is More than a Shell. And this book by Mr Cavazos does justice to those ideas.”–Prof. Steve Cannon, Gathering of the Tribes
“Diamond Grove Slave Tree is where the Voice, the Academy, and History reweave a dancing formula. This is the book where Cavazos digs into poetry’s forms and history’s lessons, searing our eyes open with simple painful Truth Art. It’s an achievement and a gift. Read this book in silence, then shout Hallelujah — this is a new way of seeing.”–Bob Holman, Bowery Poetry Club, Language Matters PBS documentary
“The legacy of George Washington Carver is an extremely important component to the cultural heritage and identity of Iowa State University. Xavier’s unique and powerful voice has created a compelling narrative that examines the struggles and triumphs of the great scientist. With his voice Xavier has strengthened the legacy of one of Iowa State’s most storied alumni. Through his narrative it is evident just how much that legacy has inspired Xavier to create and succeed. As an educator for the University Museums it is always thrilling for me when students on campus today hear the stories of the past, find a resonant chord with those who have come before, and harness that connection into inspiration to create and succeed. Xavier has created a bold and wonderful new reflection of the great scientist’s life, and in doing so, he has created a new and exciting outlet to engage with and be inspired by the legacy of George Washington Carver.”—David Faux, Interpretation Specialist, University Museums, Iowa State University
“Xavier Cavazos’ portrait of George Washington Carver creates a textured, nuanced look at this great Renaissance man. Artist, musician, inventor, botanist, and one of the most renowned scientists this country has ever known. Carver’s life was filled with struggles for racial equality. Through his highly charged poetry, Cavazos slips into the skin of Carver and humanizes this struggle, inviting the reader into the complex world of a visionary agronomist. Cavazos makes a stunning debut with this unique and powerful poetic biography.”—Mary Swander, Poet Laureate of Iowa
“Cavazos brings techniques of jazz improvisation to work bits and pieces of language into the edges and lesser-known undercurrents of the established melody of the life of George Washington Carver. ‘O peanut/& sweet potato/Alabama & Georgia/hoe & sun,’ Cavazos writes about the life and work of the famed African-American botanist and inventor who cultivated diverse crops such as peanuts, soybeans, and the sweet potato as alternative food sources for poor farmers, particularly in the South where cotton had depleted the soil of nutrients. Both the agricultural research and the biographical details of the life of Carver take on metaphorical significance in these poems, ‘The goober and the yam/ready to reap riches/from good Dixie soil.’ This remarkable life, worthy of many biographies, has found one more gifted voice to praise and sing the complicated story of discipline and genius into the sunshine.”—Debra Marquart, author of The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere
“This book is definitely meant to be read aloud to appreciate where Xavier is taking you. He captures your attention with a fresh but in-your-face perspective that forces you to look at the Carver experience all over again. To quote Carver ‘it is the product of a creative mind.’”—Thomas Moore, Executive Director, African American Museum of Iowa
“In Diamond Grove Slave Tree, Xavier Cavazos forges a vision of story and song through history, examining a visionary in a kind of poetic totality that is populated by a galaxy of form and lyrical invention worthy of George Washington Carver’s brilliance.” —Ryan Collins, Director Midwest Writing Center, author, A New American Field Guide & Song Book, (H_NGM_N Books)
“In this poetic biography about George Washington Carver, the author captures the essence of the human being beyond Carver as just ‘the peanut man.’ The reader—whether historian, linguist, student, teacher, rhetorician, or poet—is compelled to grapple with words as similes, metaphors, rhythms leap from the page, forcing a new (Re)construction of Mr. Carver. The author elicits details of Carver’s life long forgotten, or ignored, by the historical record. Exiting the book, readers find themselves inquiring: Just who was George Washington Carver—ex-slave, ‘peanut man,’ scientist, genius, or world icon?”—Dr. Bobby Cummings, Professor of English, Director of Africana and Black Studies, Central Washington University
Xavier Cavazos earned a BA from Central Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing and the Environment from Iowa State University. He was the Nuyorican Poets Café 1993 “Fresh Poet” Award winner and the Nuyorican Poets Café 1995 Grand Slam Champion. He has been a member of three national poetry slam teams. His poetry has been published in such anthologies as Verses That Hurt: Pleasure and Pain from the POEMFONE Poets (St. Martin’s Press), Under a Pomegranate Tree: The best New Latino Erotica, edited by Ray Gonzalez, (Washington Square Press), and Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, (Henry Holt Press).
Cavazos took ten years off of poetry to pursue tattooing and apprenticed under Jonathan Shaw at Fun City Tattoo in NYC. More recently, Cavazos was the 2011 and 2012 “Discovery”/ Boston Review Poetry Contest Runner-Up. He is the author of Barbarian at the Gate, selected and introduced by Thomas Sayers Ellis as part of the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poets Chapbook Series. Diamond Grove Slave Tree was selected as the inaugural Ice Cube Press Prairie Seed Poetry Prize. Cavazos has taught writing and composition at Iowa State University and currently teaches in the Writing Specialization Program at Central Washington University’s as well as in Africana and Black Studies.