Congo, seen from the heavens by Cianga


Congo, seen from the heavens is a collection of poems that journeys through not often told history from the Congolese and Black diaspora to deliver its warnings, lament, and hopes. From the perspective of a refugee, this book addresses the complex relationships between home and survival while rooting itself in the reminder that we are [our] “ancestor’s best outcome.”

From the heavens, our whole Earth can appear so small. Yet this view also allows us to see ourselves as infinitely precious; that in our tiny stake in the universe, we are worthy of existing in full splendor. Congo, seen through this lens, is more than a bereft, grieving country—it is a testament to survival, a land of dense yearning, prepared to fight.

Cianga is the third winner of Start A Riot! Chapbook Prize. In response to rapid gentrification and displacement of QTBIPOC+ literary artists in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in celebration of these communities’ revolutionary history, Foglifter PressRADAR Productions, and Still Here San Francisco joined forces to create a chapbook prize for local emerging queer and trans Black writers, indigenous writers, and writers of color. Each year, one chapbook author is awarded publication, a $1,000 prize, and promotion, as well as a spot on RADAR’s Sister Spit tour.

Cianga is a Congolese poet, based in California, whose work aims to disrupt and decolonize language and knowledge. Cover is by the author.

“This collection puts a people on its back and moves and moves... And fights! In between moments that some might call a graveyard, are reminders of triumph. The difficulty in finding joy, or a joy adjacent, can feel impossible at times, but Cianga excels beyond their years. From the text's use of music annotations to the epigraphs that guide the reader: beautiful. It's hard to find the words to accurately describe the space this collection occupies when this collection takes the reader soo, soo many places: To space and beyond. It is a privilege to have read these poems, and an honor to witness them enter the world.”


—D'mani Thomas, author of Grown Up Elementary

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