The Scorpion’s Question Mark

Winner of the 2022 Donald Justice Poetry, selected by Cornelius Eady

US List Price: $16.95

Buy Now

Also available as e-book.

The Scorpion’s Question Mark

Winner of the 2022 Donald Justice Poetry, selected by Cornelius Eady

US List Price: $16.95

Buy Now

Also available as e-book.

About the Book

In this poetry collection, J.D. Debris focuses on characters who live on society’s outskirts and demand greater visibility in the face of marginalization. At the book’s heart are extended narrative elegies for two musicians. First, the poet follows Mexican singer and songwriter Chalino Sánchez as he avenges his sister’s sexual assault, and then he turns to Gato Barbieri, an influential Argentine tenor saxophonist who is haunted by a shadowy “man in dusk-colored glasses.” As these musicians question their purpose, we as readers are invited to reflect on our lives, our legacies, and ourselves.

The Scorpion’s Question Mark is personal and mythological, representational and abstract. These formally inventive and metrically attuned poems compose a range of contrasts—boxers Manny Pacquiao and Marvelous Marvin Hagler appear alongside Tupac and Herman Melville, and apparitions of the Virgin Mary manifest in both human and mirage-like forms on public beachfronts. Looking to the scorpion’s tail that forms the shape of a question mark, Debris seeks to occupy uncertain space within the poems, bending forms to find both expansiveness and tension.


Praise for The Scorpion’s Question Mark 

What a gift of storytelling, in such deft, memorable music. And, such an eye for detail!—the kind of detail that tells volumes. Listen, for instance, to this: “Cleaning his pistol, he must hum softly.” So much power in this work, this music, and tone. Listen, also, to this: “What ridiculous luck, living long enough to sing / how your father was murdered by false policemen. / What ridiculous luck to make it through the chorus.” I love this poet’s work
Ilya Kaminsky

J.D. Debris was born in Salem, MA. He holds an MFA from New York University, where he was a Goldwater Fellow. In addition to the Donald Justice Prize, his work has received awards from Ploughshares and Narrative. His other releases include the chapbook Sparring and the music albums Black Market Organs, J.D. Debris Murder Club, and Yanquis. Formerly a touring musician and an amateur boxer, he currently […]

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