haunt by Jody Chan (Damaged Goods Press, 2018)
Reviewed by Leonora Simonovis
“for all my mothers, by blood & by blessings”
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
In the past few months, I have read two books by Shane McCrae. First, I read his latest collection In the Language of My Captor – a series of persona poems and loosely autobiographical musings which focus on the complicated nature of race and racism in American history. I fell in love with the way McCrae refuses to bow down to stereotypical narratives of what it means to be black. As a mixed-race man raised by white grandparents, McCrae explores is own nuanced identity beside the identities and imagined experiences of African Americans kept in cages by white museum curators, all the while refusing to preference once experience of blackness in America over another. In In the Language of My Captors, McCrae acknowledges the complicated nature of communicating this spectrum of black experience in the language of white Europeans – this is particularly true when thinking about poetry as a genre whose canon is made up almost entirely of white, male faces.Continue reading
Derived from the ancient word for “watching,” waiting seems especially relegated to the human animal. Waiting implies the existence of a thought process as well as biology–a stasis, a trance. The state implies a wish, as a reaction to time and action. It makes sense that the literature of waiting has ancient origins, and that the sub-genre thrives during war. The world’s most important epics are also part of the body of the literature of waiting. The Odyssey and Penelope’s wait, and The Aeneid and Dido’s wait are two of our most essential examples. Naturally, the literature of waiting thrived during World War II, when Yehuda Amichai wrote the marvelous poem I heard him read in Hebrew and in English at the Hillel Center at UCLA in the 1990’s, where he said, in essence, that the war was not worth the poems made by the light of warfare. It begins
Out of three or four in a room,
One is always standing at the window.
Forced to see the injustice among the thorns,
The fires on the hills.
At a poetry reading in September at a planetarium on the Amherst College campus, Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov talked about astrology – in particular, they talked about moons. Our individual moons: closer to us than other planets and yet too far to ever touch, milky and always changing their shape to match the rhythm of months,. Moons in Scorpio, Aries, Leo, Capricorn. Our moons, they told us, are where our poetry comes from. They were sure of this. Continue reading
Contributing editor Leonora Simonovis interviews poet Victoria Chang about her fourth collection of poems, BARBIE CHANG, out from Copper Canyon Press in 2017. They discuss resistance, the idea of being and representing otherness, the playfulness of poetry, and Chang’s forthcoming collection, which features short obituary poems written after the death of her mother. Continue reading
Cedar Sigo exemplifies a poet who is deeply read and constantly aware of the poetic influences upon him. In Royals, published by Wave Books in late summer 2017, Sigo’s topic is largely the poetic world he inhabits. In fact, the book goes so far as to be meta-poetic—the poems are about creating poetry, conversations with other poets, written to and for poets, and contain allusions to the works of other poets. Poetry as subject is infused into virtually every poem in this book. Continue reading
I was lost, looking for a wedding in the Valley of Fire, Red Rock, Nevada. At every curve in the road, I thought the towering stone formations might reveal my friend’s white dress. When it was clear I wouldn’t find the party, I parked the car and wandered into the crevices between the rocks. I waded through the fine, pink sand to the place where I could see the petroglyphs carved into their faces. Around me were creatures who looked rabbit-human, goat-human, and spirals, and horned insecta. I walked deeper into the rock, looking for more of the 3000-year-old language, the setting sun making the world more red. Continue reading
I saw Kaveh Akbar read last month under a white tent lit with string lights in Emily Dickinson’s garden. The garden, of course, was not as tranquil as it had been when Emily sat there. Akbar read over a hum of street traffic and chatting pedestrians. At moments, though, it was quiet. Akbar read elegy after elegy – for lost language and lost friends, for a version of himself that drank more and hurt more – and I thought of Emily. “One need not be a chamber to be haunted, / One need not be a house…” Continue reading