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Abide

Jake Adam York

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

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. ix-xii

Abide with Me

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p. 1-1

te lyra pulsa manu or something like that

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pp. 2-4

Epistrophy

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pp. 5-7

Letter to Be Wrapped around a 12-Inch Disc

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pp. 8-13

Letter Hidden in a Letter to Cy Twombly

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pp. 14-15

Postscript

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p. 16-16

Mayflower

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pp. 17-18

Letter Written on a Hundred Dollar Bill

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pp. 19-20

Letter Written on a Record Sleeve

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pp. 21-24

Abide

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pp. 25-26

Postscript Written on a J-Card

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pp. 27-30

Exploded View

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pp. 31-32

My Great-Grandmother’s Snuff Cup

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p. 33-33

Feedback Loop

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p. 34-34

Letter Written in Black Water and Pearl

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pp. 35-37

Laws of Conservation

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p. 38-38

Cry of the Occasion

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pp. 39-40

The Voice of Woody Guthrie Wakes in an Antenna in Okemah, Oklahoma

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pp. 41-45

Letter from Okemah

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pp. 46-48

Postscript to Silence

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p. 49-49

Letter Already Broadcast into Space

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pp. 50-52

Abide

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p. 53-53

Letter Written in the Breath

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pp. 54-58

Inscription for Air

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pp. 59-60

Dear Brother,

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pp. 61-62

Tape Loop

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pp. 63-64

Letter Written in Someone Else’s Hand

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pp. 65-66

Letter Written in the Dark

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pp. 67-71

Postscript (Already Breaking in Distant Echoes)

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pp. 72-73

Letter to Be Read by Furnace Light

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pp. 74-76

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Foreword to a Subsequent Reading

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pp. 77-80

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...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 81-82

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

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809333288
E-ISBN-10: 0809333287
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809333271
Print-ISBN-10: 0809333279

Page Count: 96
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth

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