In his debut collection, The Existentialist Cookbook, Shawnte Orion sifts through the absurdity of modern living for scraps of philosophy, religion, and mathematics to blend into recipes for elegies and celebrations. From Kurosawa films to "Project Runway," writers to rock stars, influences are embraced and wrestled as Orion magnifies mortality through the prism of chronology and humor.
Reading The Existentialist Cookbook is like attending a raucous dinner party of the imagination. Host Shawnte Orion lets you know right away that the usual two off-limit topics—politics and religion—don't apply at this gathering. The Existentialist Cookbook is smart, pun-filled; it's full of serious wordplay, pop culture, and inventive persona. This fusion poetry cuisine takes on haiku, haibun, and KFC. The Existentialist Cookbook is a delightful concoction. Bon appetite!
—Denise Duhamel, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist for Blowout
In The Existentialist Cookbook, Shawnte Orion finds poetry everywhere—in onions, oncoming traffic, papercuts, and even Keith Richards. This debut collection offers the unexpected, looking at life in Technicolor and tie-dye with Orion bringing a fresh, engaging, and much-needed voice into the poetic conversation. These poems are smart, funny, and poignant, and the book as a whole satisfies the deliciousness readers hunger for, something we can return again and again to savor.
—Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Hourglass Museum
Shawnte Orion's The Existentialist Cookbook is a barrel-ride of styles down swirling rapids. His poems switch voices like a chameleon switches shades (then they make fun of the chameleon just as you are thinking that), as he writes poems listed as found poems, as not-yet-written by other poets poems, as poems that come across like a party of different personalities in his head where you get a title like "Kentucky Freud Chicken" mixed with botany lessons mixed with puns mixed with lines so lovely they leave you reading slowly so as not to miss bits like: "The wind looks for sailboats, but finds/each miniscule opening/between the buttons of your/brand new jacket." Get your life jacket or water wings ready. Dive in.
—Matt Mason, author of The Baby That Ate Cincinnati