Ten Bridges I've Burnt: A Memoir in Verse (Paperback)

Ten Bridges I've Burnt: A Memoir in Verse By Brontez Purnell Cover Image
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"This book is brutal and brutally honest, but still perversely addictive because Brontez Purnell is a performer in the truest sense. Reading Ten Bridges I've Burnt, I felt tucked-in with him, along for the intimate ride, and paused only once to write down a part I’d been looking for my whole life." —Miranda July

From the beloved author of 100 Boyfriends, a wrenching, sexy, and exhilaratingly energetic memoir in verse.

In Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt, Brontez Purnell—the bard of the underloved and overlooked—turns his gaze inward. A storyteller with a musical eye for the absurdity of his own existence, he is peerless in his ability to find the levity within the stormiest of crises. Here, in his first collection of genre-defying verse, Purnell reflects on his peripatetic life, whose ups and downs have nothing on the turmoil within. “The most high-risk homosexual behavior I engage in,” Purnell writes, “is simply existing.”

The thirty-eight autobiographical pieces pulsing in Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt find Purnell at his no-holds-barred best. He remembers a vicious brawl he participated in at a poetry conference and reckons with packaging his trauma for TV writers’ rooms; wrestles with the curses, and gifts, passed down from generations of family members; and chronicles, with breathless verve, a list of hell-raising misadventures and sexcapades. Through it all, he muses on everything from love and loneliness to capitalism and Blackness to jogging and the ethics of art, always with unpredictable clarity and movement.

With the same balance of wit and wisdom that made 100 Boyfriends a sensation, Purnell unleashes another collection of boundary-pushing writing with Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt, a book as original and thrilling as the author himself.

About the Author


Brontez Purnell is the author of several books, most recently 100 Boyfriends, which won the 2022 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Fiction, was longlisted for the 2022 Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award and the 2021 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize, and was named an Editors' Choice by the New York Times Book Review. The recipient of a 2018 Whiting Writers' Award for Fiction and the 2022 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Robert Rauschenberg Award, he was named one of the thirty-two Black Male Writers of Our Time by T: The New York Times Style Magazine in 2018. Purnell is also the frontman for the band the Younger Lovers and a renowned dancer, performance artist, and zine-maker. Born in Triana, Alabama, he's lived in Oakland, California, for two decades.

Praise For…


"Purnell [is] still a genre unto himself . . . Even when cloaked in artifice, the poetry of Ten Bridges I've Burnt is searingly authentic, often colored by Purnell’s experiences as a queer Black punk experiencing what he describes as a belated adolescence in ’00s Oakland." —Zack Ruskin, San Francisco Chronicle

"[Ten Bridges I've Burnt] tackles life as a queer Black man from Alabama to Oakland with no holds barred. . . The poems in this collection are honest, vulnerable and hilarious." —Camila Domonoske, NPR

"Brontez’s tawdry, queer autofiction brims with street-smart critique hidden between the sheets of lurid, lusty remembrances, a gratifying read for baby gays in godknowswhere and gay guys with arts degrees alike." —Vidal Wu, Flaunt

“This collection of scathing, riotous, brutally frank poems offers lyrical reflections on race, sex, and adjacent struggles under capitalism. Purnell deploys a witty, conversational style in his often humorous indictments of traditional masculinity." —Booklist

“To say that Brontez Purnell is one of my favorite American writers isn’t quite right, mostly because the word 'writer' doesn’t nearly encapsulate the high-camp-queer-gonzo-performance-art that is inseparable from his daily life. Written in a similarly hectic style to 2021’s 100 Boyfriends, this is a memoir in 38 fragments that pulls no punches: one of the essays is in fact about a punch-on at a poetry reading.” —Samuel Rutter, Literary Hub

“At turns funny, confrontational, and achingly sad . . . [Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt] presents abundant wry commentary on accepted norms and the extent to which one may suffer in pursuit of them . . . A unique, indelible memoir on being Black and gay in America.” —Kirkus

"This book is brutal and brutally honest, but still perversely addictive because Brontez Purnell is a performer in the truest sense. Reading Ten Bridges I've Burnt, I felt tucked-in with him, along for the intimate ride, and paused only once to write down a part I’d been looking for my whole life." —Miranda July

"This memoir in verse makes me enormously happy. To the things I know about Brontez Purnell add astral poet (in terms of imagination and scale) and classicist (elegant concerns). Witness it here. Lines leap out of themselves like light eruptions from the funniest angel you ever saw. I could listen to this poet for hours, drive for days on a single thought: 'in my defense/I just had to signify/that poetry/is still dangerous.'" —Eileen Myles

“I have been a fan of Brontez Purnell since I first saw him on video skipping gaily through San Francisco's streets in an early 2000s Younger Lovers video, and since then I’ve watched with pleasure as he’s shared with the wider world his numerous talents, as a performance artist, fiction and nonfiction writer, curator, and, not least, a lyricist and poet. Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt is Purnell’s first collection of poetry, and it crackles like a live wire with his unique voice: Black, playful, gay, Southern, militant, joyful, queer, sexy, real, Bay Arean, and indisputably his own. Providing glimpses of the exciting life he’s lived, Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt also suggests options for how to live in the world now.” —John Keene, author of Punks: New and Selected Poems, winner of the 2022 National Book Award for Poetry

"Brontez Purnell has impeccable comic timing and the gift of absolute candor. His poems leap off the page with insouciant, revolutionary speed. The urgent messages they deliver—with stinging wit and carefully honed critical defiance—provide inspiring models for how to perform, how to thrive, and how to write." —Wayne Koestenbaum

“In Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt, Brontez Purnell’s language—bitchy, magnetic, dick-rich—is propulsive. His verse ladders down, alive with clear-eyed anger, bittersweet refusals. The braiding of emotions is jaw-dropping. One moment you’re seething. The next, you’re cackling. Defiant and timely, this book razes expectations, blazes in the mind long after finishing it.” —Eduardo C. Corral, author of guillotine, winner of the 2021 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Poetry

"Written against the sanitized aesthetics of decorous poetry, Brontez Purnell’s no-holds-barred collection, Ten Bridges I’ve Burnt, is an unapologetic—and always thrilling—romp through jizz, poetry fights, daddy (issues), coke, sex for money, and boyfriends of every race. In verse that is at once hard-edged, punk, and nakedly direct, Purnell refuses the terms of dour trauma porn in favor of playful irreverence, even as the poems go deep into the pain of life under hetero-patriarchal racial capitalism." —Jackie Wang, author of The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void, finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Poetry

"Brontez Purnell's Ten Bridges I've Burnt: A Memoir in Verse is proof that "poetry is/still dangerous." It's a burn book/love letter to the Bay area's queer demimonde. Ten Bridges I've Burnt pushes back and forth in time, stopping to mop up at the Lusty Lady (RIP) before jogging around Lake Merritt. This is the memoir of an artist who helped queercore find its roots. If you read Fag School or sang along to "D.A.N.N.Y." you're pulling grey hairs now. Purnell snatches the sting out of the words "aging Black punk." Thank god!" —Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, author of Slingshot, winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry



Product Details
ISBN: 9780374612696
ISBN-10: 0374612692
Publisher: MCD
Publication Date: February 13th, 2024
Pages: 144
Language: English
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