“Outstanding . . . the poetry in these pages is intelligent, lyrical, as invested in the past as the present and future with witty nods to pop culture.” —Roxane Gay, author of Hunger
 
“I’ve never read anything like it. Truly a sublime experience.” —Jason Reynolds, author of Ain’t Burned All the Bright

A groundbreaking collection about Afropioneerism past and present from Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and New York Times bestselling author Rio Cortez

From a visionary writer praised for her captivating work on Black history and experience, comes a poetry collection exploring personal, political, and artistic frontiers, journeying from her family's history as "Afropioneers" in the American West to shimmering glimpses of transcendent, liberated futures. 
 
In poems that range from wry, tongue-in-cheek observations about contemporary life to more nuanced meditations on her ancestors—some of the earliest Black pioneers to settle in the western United States after Reconstruction—Golden Ax invites readers to re-imagine the West, Black womanhood, and the legacies that shape and sustain the pursuit of freedom. 
Advance praise for Golden Ax:

"Cortez maps untrodden historical and speculative terrain in poems of stunning breadth and intimacy in this exquisite debut . . . reflecting on class, race, and womanhood with wit and lyrical subtlety . . . Unflinching and generous, this bold collection opens new vistas in contemporary Black poetry.” 
Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

“Outstanding . . . the poetry in these pages is intelligent, lyrical, as invested in the past as the present and future with witty nods to pop culture.”
—Roxane Gay, author of Hunger

Complicate your shit, I hear myself saying more and more these days, about our two-dimensional, simplifying, reductive thinking to most everything worth thinking hard about, and so imagine my delight, or something heartier than delight, my relief, my gratitude, at Rio Cortez’s beautiful book, Golden Ax, which, I love—I mean, I love this book—for its sensuous, chiseled language; for all the trees and plants (aster, bluestem, birchwood, hibiscus); for its weird and brainy sense of humor; for its palpable yearning and need; and for its entangled, complicated, unfixable, and unfixing blackness. Its unsettled and unsettling blackness. Which is really just to say: its blackness. I am so grateful for this book, and this voice, and this heart, in the world.”
—Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights  

Golden Ax is a mirror maze where every poem elongates or widens the reader. Though Cortez leads us through a personal journey that embodies the distortion of the archived and the imagined, I couldn't help but feel at the end of it that I'd been in congress with some of my own lesser-recognized selves. I've never read anything like it. Truly a sublime experience.”
—Jason Reynolds, author of Ain't Burned All the Bright

“A game changer. Cortez is without a doubt one of the most brilliant writers I've ever read. This book will be talked about for decades—it's canon . . . Poetry needs [Cortez's] voice—lullaby, chant, call for change, song, wind—to save a home-truth place for us in the universe, past, future, and present. Golden Ax is a seismic achievement, a cosmic-level work of art.”
—Brenda Shaughnessy, author of The Octopus Museum

Golden Ax is as omnipresent as scripture. Rio’s location as poet, archivist, lover, mother, and citizen is where Blackness as sound and organic synthesis meet. Insistent with cataloging our fullest existence: Black life, Black leisure, Black peace, and Black joy, Golden Ax is an integral study and acknowledgment of a historically scattered, generationally wounded people. Rio traverses between tanning bed reclamations, Cuba observations, the weight of her beloved’s eyes, and the findings of the afro-futurist body thriving in a natural world. This collection is the grace we don’t deserve, but will love wholly as we earn the weight of its bounty.”
—Mahogany L. Browne, author of Vinyl Moon and poet-in-residence at Lincoln Center

“In Golden Ax, Rio Cortez communes with language and land on her own terms. Airy and spacious but dense in complexity and intention, this book wrestles with and falls in love with its landscape; situating itself in the plains of a new Black West tradition. These lush, inquisitive poems sing life, afterlife, and before-life. Brimming with lyricism and imagination, sensitivity and sly humor; Golden Ax is a perfectly innovative and relentlessly tender collection by a thrillingly dynamic poet.”
—Morgan Parker, author of Magical Negro

“Poet Rio Cortez’s first full-length collection, Golden Ax (Penguin Poets, $18), uses “Afropioneerism” as its theme. Cortez examines how her family came to the American West after Reconstruction—and reimagines the landscape through the lens of Black people who both embody and defy its realities. In the process, we are pushed to envision our own futures on the frontier, united by a collective aspiration to freedom.” --Essence