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“The voice inside my head is talking smack,” writes poet Erica Dawson in Big-Eyed Afraid, her first collection of works. Dawson then takes that hostile internal monologue and twists it into a powerful new poetic voice. With her deft wordplay and stinging narrative, Dawson taps out a fierce rhythm of what it means to grow up black and female in America. Dawson’s poems are taut but rowdy creations, rhythmic amalgamations of campy language poetry and brave personal narrative. In “Doll Baby,” Dawson dances between grotesque imagery—her cesarean section is a “Slice-N-Tug”—and silly sexual innuendo, crafting an uneasy rhyme between “my pigment treasure trail” and “bristle on an alpha male.” Big-Eyed Afraid—which beat out 450 others to snag the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize last year—manages the tricky balancing act between unsentimental wit and heavy identity musing. Dawson reads from her work at 1 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919.