Leda’s Daughters


K. Avvirin Berlin

Washington Writers’ Publishing House

Winner of the 2023 Jean Feldman Poetry Prize

On sale: October 3, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-941551-34-9/$18.95 Support your local independent bookstore and your Washington Writers’ Publishing House by ordering via bookshop.org here.

An insightful and moving exploration of Black and Native American history and culture, Leda’s Daughters is high-caliber poetic research. Berlin’s poetry transforms our sensibility about major historical figures and events. It is a loving, sometimes beautiful, sometimes painful, ode to struggle, survival, and inheritance. — Kara Keeling, Author of Queer Times, Black Futures

K. Avvrin Berlin’s Leda’s Daughters earns its title: these gorgeous poems are creatures and consequences of racialized violence—which is to say that they are poems about our contemporary world.  Not only Leda’s rape but Lot’s Daughters’ incest, Saint Joan’s martyrdom, Virginia Woolf’s suicide, Sojourner Truth’s truths, John Brown’s body, Harriet Jacobs’s loophole of retreat, Iphigenia’s sacrifice, Pocahontas’s fate are all transported over space and time to Harlem, Birmingham, Georgia, the New South, the Dismal Swamp, Charleston in 1867, North Dakota now.  Myths turn into flesh and bone.  This book is the painfully admirable accomplishment of a poet who is herself a new and stunning figure on the oldest of poetic horizons. — Virginia W. Jackson, UCI Endowed Chair of Rhetoric, Author of Dickinson’s Misery and Before Modernism: Inventing American Lyric

K. Avvirin Berlin’s poetry sings of the ways that myth undergirds all that we see while it reminds us of the material bodies we must use to approach such stories. Leda’s Daughters re-illuminates those myths that surround us, and like an art conservator using language as her restorative tool, Berlin brushes away what has become too familiar so that she might reveal some startling, new way of experiencing that which has been concealed just beneath the surface. We are honored to name it this year’s winner, and we are excited to make a home for it at WWPH. — Tonee Moll, 2022 winner of the Jean Feldman Poetry Award for You Cannot Save Here

Leda’s Daughters pays homage to a wide array of figures and scenes from Black and Native histories. Sometimes K. Avvirin Berlin mourns the violence of these histories, at other times she points to moments of creative fugitivity. But always and throughout, Black and Native bodies escape the forms of narrativity that have confined them and explained them and they make a leap, through poetry, into opacity, truancy and love. — Jack Halbertstam, The David Feinson Professor of the Humanities, Columbia University, and Author of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire and In a Queer Time and Place

In K. Avvirin Berlin’s debut collection, Leda’s Daughters, the lives of working women are spun by able hands into myth. These are salt-of-the-earth poems that traverse and transgress the temporal, re-envisioning African American and Native American women’s history as a history of poetics. Like the capacious minds of the women it celebrates, the collection moves between the classical and modern worlds, calling out for affiliation and seeking the elusive place where the beloved dwells. These poems bear witness to the minutiae and small miracles that make up laboring women’s lives. Please note: the cover art is Berlin’s original painting.

K. Avvirin Berlin is an Assistant Professor of English at Washington and Lee University. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity from USC, an M.A. in American Indian Studies from UCLA and a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poems have been published in The Georgia Review, Boston Review online, Women’s Studies Quarterly and the Beloit Poetry Journal. Her scholarship on Sojourner Truth and Black feminism is forthcoming in Nineteenth-Century Literature; scholarly reviews have appeared in Women’s Review of Books. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband and their two cats. Leda’s Daughters is her debut collection. More on her website here.

Join us at the Launch Readings for LEDA’S DAUGHTERS! (Free and Open to All)

Saturday, October 14 at 3 pm – Politics & Prose -5015 Connecticut Avenue NW – Washington DC 20008

Sunday, October 22 at 3 pm (wine and cheese reception to follow) – Writer’s Center– 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815

Each September 1-November 1, the Washington Writers’ Publishing House reads through over a hundred manuscripts from writers in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Winners are selected (blind selection process) by past contest winners, who comprise both WWPH’s judging and editorial volunteer staff. Manuscript contests are open from September 1-November 1. We strongly encourage interested writers to read our recent past winners.