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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.
Travis Mossotti writes with humor, gravity, and humility about subjects grounded in a world of grit, where the quiet mortality of working folk is weighed. To Mossotti, the love of a bricklayer for his wife is as complex and simple as life itself: "ask him to put into words what that sinking is, / that shudder in his chest, as he notices / the wrinkles gathering at the corners of her mouth." But not a whiff of sentiment enters these poems, for Mossotti has little patience for ideas of the noble or for sympathetic portraits of hard-used saints. His vision is clear, as clear as the memory of how scarecrows in the rearview, "each of them, stuffed / into a body they didn't choose, resembled / your own plight." His poetry embraces unsanctimonious life with all its wonder, its levity, and clumsiness. About the Dead is an accomplished collection by a writer in control of a wide range of experience.
Absentee Indians and Other Poems evokes personal yet universal experiences of the places that Native Americans call home, their family and national histories, and the emotional forces that help forge Native American identities. These are poems of exile, loss, and the celebration of that which remains. Anchored in the physical landscape, Blaeser’s poetry finds the sacred in those ordinary actions that bind a community together. As Blaeser turns to the mysterious passage from sleeping to wakefulness, or from nature to spirit, she reveals not merely the movement from one age or place to another, but the movement from experience to vision.
Classical Arabic Poetry
Abundance from the Desert provides a comprehensive introduction to classical Arabic poetry, one of the richest of poetic traditions. Covering the period roughly of 500–1250 c.e., it features original translations and illuminating discussions of a number of major classical Arabic poems from a variety of genres. The poems are presented chronologically, each situated within a specific historical and literary context. Together, the selected poems suggest the range and depth of classical Arabic poetic expression; read in sequence, they suggest the gradual evolution of a tradition.
Bruce Weigl’s previous collections include After the Others (1999), Sweet Lorain (1996), and What Saves Us (1992), all published by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. His poetry, essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in such magazines and journals as The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Harper’s.
Accounted For is a collection of lyrical poems voiced by a multi-faceted persona negotiating the transience of self and the social and psychological illusions of time. Other selves are encountered—mirrored, intimated, drawn, or fully detailed, each opening a view to the fractures of psyche. Prayers, dreams, invocations, and meditations suggest a relationship with the Unseen that can breach the natural world with the power of image. Endless contingency and depth of vision characterize these poems, open wholly to the mysteries of life and death.
Conversations with Contemporary Poets
Address draws us into visible and invisible architectures, into acts of intimate and public address. These poems are concentrated, polyvocal, and sharply attentive to acts of representation; they take personally their politics and in the process reveal something about the way civic structures inhabit the imagination. Poisonous plants, witches, anthems, bees--beneath their surface, we glimpse the fragility of our founding, republican aspirations and witness a disintegrating landscape artfully transformed. If a poem can serve as a kind of astrolabe, measuring distances both cosmic and immediate, temporal and physical, it does so by imaginative, nonlinear means. Here, past and present engage in acts of mutual interrogation and critique, and within this dynamic Willis's poetry is at once complexly authoritative and searching: "so begins our legislation."