Our 2019 Chapbook Winner Debuts Now!

Naima Tokunow‘s Shadow Black is here! It’s free, it’s digital, it’s all yours.

Read the chapbook now.


The Frontier team is beyond excited to share with you our second chapbook, the winner of the 2019 Frontier Digital Chapbook Contest, selected by Jericho Brown. Read Naima Tokunow’s chapbook here.



Naima Yael Tokunow’s Shadow Black, chosen by Jericho Brown as the 2019 Winner of the Frontier Chapbook Contest, is one of those rare collections that punctures its reader with singular focus and force, lingering in the body like an unseen bruise. “I do not make Shadow Blacks, but I record them. On all of our bodies,” Tokunow writes. The work orbits around this figure, the poignant Shadow Black, a monster of racialized imagination—and investigates the central question: what does it mean to be seen while black in America? to “come up from the grave buzzing”? Tokunow is a poet of the body, searching every bit of flesh, soft and hard, for the reality of its history, of its wounds and its resurrections: including Charleston, including child birth, including the deaths of young black boys at the hands of police and headless girls forgotten, unclaimed.


“The poems in Shadow Black move from startling moments of subtlety to satisfying passages of rant. Naima Tokunow is also a poet of the body, and in that tradition she calls for the liberation of the black body in particular: ‘It refuses. It declines. It makes its own.’ I’m so glad to have these poems in my life.”

Jericho Brown, Guggenheim Fellow & author of The Tradition

“Shadow Black eludes and surprises, a palimpsest against which Naima Yael Tokunow projects the difficult ontology of a lyric identity destabilized by paradigmatic forces meant to corral queerness and femaleness and the facets of a bi-racial identity. Tokunow is a limber lyric poem with a diamond-hard edge that will “…find the way to make teeth/and to open [her] mouth for them…”

Carmen Giménez Smith, Co-Director of Cantomundo & author of Be Recorder

Shadow Black‘s poems are tightly wound, angled with energy against their specific and deliberate forms, often prosaic, often menacing and eager for the soft mouth of a reader. Riding on the tension between academic, prophetic, elegiac and manifesto voices, Tokunow employs language that seeks moments of penetration and surprise. To experience this collection is to experience the myriad responses, violent and hopeful, to the projection hugging so much skin in America: Shadow Black.”

Josh Roark, Editor of Frontier Poetry



Naima Yael Tokunow (née Woods) is an educator, writer and editor, currently living in New Mexico. Her work (and life) focus around interrogating black femme identity & privilege, social justice and black futurity. She is the author of three chapbooks, MAKE WITNESS, published in 2016 by Zoo Cake Press, Planetary Bodies, out from Black Warrior Review in 2019, and Shadow Black, forthcoming from Frontier. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a TENT Residency Fellow & has attended The Home School workshop in Miami. She proudly edits the Black Voice Series for Puerto del Sol and the Scarlet blog for Jaded Ibis. New work is published or forthcoming from bone bouquet, Bayou, Winter Tangerine, Nat. Brut, juked, Diagram and elsewhere.

Close Menu