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In The 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Joseph Bathanti offers poems that delve deep into a life reimagined through a mythologized past. Moving from his childhood to the present, weaving through the Italian immigrant streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to his parochial school, from the ballpark to church and home again, these contemplative poems present a situation unique to the poet but familiar to us all.
In this finely observed novel, five young Lebanese women navigate their professional and social lives in a city interrupted by random explosions. It is not a war zone, but there is no peace either; Beirut stands at the edge of both. These women, much like their country, have been shaped by the events of a long civil war, their childhood spent in shelters, their adolescence in an unrecognizable city under rapid reconstruction. And here they are now, negotiating the details of their adult lives, fighting to protect their identities, voices, and relationships in a society constantly under questioning. Talk of politics and gossip by the young and old animate the coffee shops. Heated debates and power dynamics unfold in bars and on the streets. Mandour’s funny and defiant style invites an intimacy, giving readers a glimpse into the absurdities and injustices of everyday life in Lebanon. With empathy and a deep honesty, Mandour narrates the lives of these women who struggle to create their own destiny while at the same time coming to terms with the identity of their Mediterranean city.
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.