‘Thief in the Interior’ by Phillip B. Williams
Photo: Courtesy of Alice James Books

In 2005, Rashawn Brazell, a 19-year-old bisexual black man, was murdered in Brooklyn, parts of his body stuffed in garbage bags. The horror of that crime provides the bulk of the inspiration behind Humboldt Park native Phillip B. Williams’s searing new collection of poetry, Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books, January 12, $16).

Many of the pieces play with lyrical styles and shifts in perspective, from a bag that contained Brazell’s body parts to anonymous letters written to his mother. Though not all of the poems address Brazell’s killing, the specter of black death looms throughout in the form of lynchings and police brutality, making for a haunting, remarkably relevant read.