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Cameroon in Black and White
Bill NDIís Bleeding Red: Cameroon in Black and White is another masterpiece from a poet with a deeply political vision. This collection of poems with Cameroon as the particular focal point is a paragon of socio-political and cultural alertness in verse that will get every reader on their toes. Bill NDIís world is fraught with topsy-turvydom. It is a world darkened by experience and a keen sense of the wrongs plaguing his beloved country. He points out, without preaching, where it all went wrong, how it can, or what it will take to, be redeemed. The acerbity of Bill NDIís criticism runs from the very first poem of the collection ëAnthem for Essingangí through ëThe Promiseí to the very last one ëPapa Ngando Yi Mimba for Cameluní. What a clime characterised by a ìclan of mbokos, clan of banditsî! It is just natural that as they perpetrate ìdeath and sadnessî in his beloved fatherland, nothing but ìdisgraceî, ìgreat shameî, and ìrepudiationî awaits them for evermore.
The poems in Blood Prism span a lifetime. Its three sections, “Memory,” “Politics,” and “Age,” frame meditations on a violence-blotched world with reflections on the author’s childhood and conclusions about a decades-long life of writing. “I’m 60 and still . . . alive in this world, with love and with its palindrome,” one poem says. And the argument of the book turns on that precise puzzle: on evol, invoking as it does both evil and evolve, both human wrong and life as something more than mere survival. In a variety of styles—prose poems, standard and dislocated forms—Hoeppner uses “blood” to represent family and history, his surprising and richly imagistic language rendering the emptiness he calls imagination “into remains. Into what persists.”
In Blowout, Denise Duhamel asks the same question that Frankie Lyman & the Teenagers asked back in 1954—"Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" Duhamel's poems readily admit that she is a love-struck fool, but also embrace the "crazy wisdom" of the Fool of the Tarot deck and the fool as entertainer or jester. From a kindergarten crush to a failed marriage and beyond, Duhamel explores the nature of romantic love and her own limitations. She also examines love through music, film, and history—Michelle and Barak Obama's inauguration and Cleopatra's ancient sex toy. Duhamel chronicles the perilous cruelties of love gone awry, but also reminds us of the compassion and transcendence in the aftermath. In "Having a Diet Coke with You," she asserts that "love poems are the most difficult poems to write / because each poem contains its opposite its loss / and that no matter how fierce the love of a couple / one of them will leave the other / if not through betrayal / then through death." Yet, in Blowout, Duhamel fiercely and foolishly embraces the poetry of love.
The Poetry of George Elliott Clarke
Blues singer, preacher, cultural critic, exile, Africadian, high modernist, spoken word artist, Canadian poet—these are but some of the voices of George Elliott Clarke. In a selection of Clarke’s best work from his early poetry to his most recent, Blues and Bliss: The Poetry of George Elliott Clarke offers readers an impressive cross-section of those voices. Jon Paul Fiorentino’s introduction focuses on this polyphony, his influences—Derek Walcott, Amiri Baraka, and the canon of literary English from Shakespeare to Yeats—and his “voice throwing,” and shows how the intersections here produce a “troubling” of language. He sketches Clarke’s primary interest in the negotiation of cultural space through adherence to and revision of tradition and on the finding of a vernacular that begins in exile, especially exile in relation to African-Canadian communities.
In the afterword, Clarke, in an interesting re-spin of Fiorentino’s introduction, writes with patented gusto about how his experiences have contributed to multiple sounds and forms in his work. Decrying any grandiose notions of theory, he presents himself as primarily a songwriter.
Blues for Bill was born out of the desire to perpetuate the memory of our dear friend and teacher, Bill Matthews. Bill’s work will last without our help, of course, but what of our memories of Bill himself? This collection of poems ensures that the world will remember his graciousness, intelligence, knowledge, style, good humor, capacity for friendship, immense talent and wit. It’s Bill himself this anthology memorializes, the character and soul of this most unique man. The poems included were written by people who knew Bill in a variety of ways, under myriad circumstances: as friend, both old and new; as mentor and teacher; as colleague; as father. The book’s introduction was penned by Bill’s long-time friend, Russell Banks. Many of the contributors’ names will be familiar, such as Sharon Olds, Stanley Plumly, Dave Smith, Henry Taylor, David Wojahn, Susan Wood, and Baron Wormser; others are perhaps not as well known, but their poems are remarkable, true testaments to Bill.
The title of Blue-Tail Fly comes from an antebellum song commonly known as “Jimmy Crack Corn.” The blue-tail fly is a supposedly insignificant creature that bites the horse that bucks and kills the master. In this collection, poet Vievee Francis gives voice to “outsiders”-from soldiers and common folk to leading political figures-who play the role of the blue-tail fly in the period of American history between the Mexican American War and the Civil War. Through a diverse range of styles, characters, and emotions, Francis's poems consider the demands of war, protest and resistance to it, and the cross-cultural exchanges of wartime. More than a narrowly themed text, Blue-Tail Fly is a book of balances, weighing the give-and-take of people and cultures in the arena of war. For lovers of poetry and those interested in American history, Blue-Tail Fly will illustrate the complexities of the American past and future.