Publication Year: 2014
In the years leading up to his recent passing, Alabama poet Jake Adam York set out on a journey to elegize the 126 martyrs of the civil rights movement, murdered in the years between 1954 and 1968. Abide is the stunning follow-up to York’s earlier volumes, a memorial in verse for those fallen. From Birmingham to Okemah, Memphis to Houston, York’s poems both mourn and inspire in their quest for justice, ownership, and understanding.
Within are anthems to John Earl Reese, a sixteen-year-old shot by Klansmen through the window of a café in Mayflower, Texas, where he was dancing in 1955; to victims lynched on the Oklahoma prairies; to the four children who perished in the Birmingham church bombing of 1963; and to families who saw the white hoods of the Klan illuminated by burning crosses. Juxtaposed with these horrors are more loving images of the South: the aroma of greens simmering on the stove, “tornado-strong” houses built by loved ones long gone, and the power of rivers “dark as roux.”
Throughout these lush narratives, York resurrects the ghosts of Orpheus, Sun Ra, Howlin’ Wolf, Thelonious Monk, Woody Guthrie, and more, summoning blues, jazz, hip-hop, and folk musicians for performances of their “liberation music” that give special meaning to the tales of the dead.
In the same moment that Abide memorializes the fallen, it also raises the ethical questions faced by York during this, his life’s work: What does it mean to elegize? What does it mean to elegize martyrs? What does it mean to disturb the symmetries of the South’s racial politics or its racial poetics?
A bittersweet elegy for the poet himself, Abide is as subtle and inviting as the whisper of a record sleeve, the gasp of the record needle, beckoning us to heed our history.
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
Series: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Abide with Me
te lyra pulsa manu or something like that
Letter to Be Wrapped around a 12-Inch Disc
Letter Hidden in a Letter to Cy Twombly
Letter Written on a Hundred Dollar Bill
Letter Written on a Record Sleeve
Postscript Written on a J-Card
My Great-Grandmother’s Snuff Cup
Letter Written in Black Water and Pearl
Laws of Conservation
Cry of the Occasion
The Voice of Woody Guthrie Wakes in an Antenna in Okemah, Oklahoma
Letter from Okemah
Postscript to Silence
Letter Already Broadcast into Space
Letter Written in the Breath
Inscription for Air
Letter Written in Someone Else’s Hand
Letter Written in the Dark
Postscript (Already Breaking in Distant Echoes)
Letter to Be Read by Furnace Light
Foreword to a Subsequent Reading
Abide is a book made of two books, each written over and within the other. One of these books advances the project I’ve been developing for almost a decade now—in Murder Ballads (2005), A Murmuration of Starlings (2008), and Persons Unknown (2010)—to elegize each of the martyrs of the civil rights movement. When the Civil Rights...
Thanks, first, to the editors and readers of the following journals in which some of these poems appeared (or are soon to appear), sometimes in slightly different forms...
Other Works in the Series, Back Cover
Page Count: 96
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth See more Books in this Series
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Abide