An iconoclastic ecopoet who has led the way for many young and emerging artists, Brenda Hillman continues to re-cast innovative poetic forms as instruments for tracking human and non-human experiences. At times the poet deploys short dialogues, meditations or trance techniques as means of rendering inner states; other times she uses narrative, documentary or scientific materials to record daily events during a time of pandemic, planetary crisis, political and racial turmoil. Hillman proposes that poetry offers courage even in times of existential peril; her work represents what is most necessary and fresh in American poetry.
Belly to the Brutal by Jennifer Givhan sings a corrido of the love between mothers and daughters, confronting the learned complicity with patriarchal violence passed down from generation to generation. Givhan’s poetry edges into the borderlands, touching the realm of chora—humming, screaming, rhythm—transporting the words outside of patriarchal and racist constructs. Drawing from curanderisma and a revived wave of feminist brujería, Givhan creates a healing space for Brown women and mothers. Each poem finds its own form, interweaving beauty and devastation to create a pathway out of the systems that have for too long oppressed women. The poems dwell in the thick language of “motherfear,” “where love grows too / in the shining center of the wound.” This poetry of invocation moves toward a transformation of violence that is ultimately redemptive. Jennifer Givhan (Albuquerque, NM) is an award-winning Mexican-American poet and novelist whose family has ancestral ties to the Indigenous peoples of New Mexico and Texas.
A double book (176pp) by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rae Armantrout. I mean, really, do we need to say more? How about some samples? From “Shush”: “A smart pop song / can convince a desperate person / to see herself / as a thrill seeker. // This is considered a job skill.” From “Flocks”: “As thoughts take pleasure / in forming, then break and / retreat.” From “Plague Year”: “What we share is distance: telephone poles / leaning this way and that, a wayward / crowd that staggers drunkenly / toward an empty, mauve horizon. // We can’t wait to see / who dies next.” This is not a book of poetry. It’s a collection of daily meditations to see us through. To what? Exactly.
The Writing of an Hour Poetry and Prose by Brenda Coultas Wesleyan University Press, March 2022 ISBN: 9780819580702 Hardcover, 88pp; $35
In The Writing of an Hour, New York poet and teacher Brenda Coultas considers the effort and the deliberateness that brings her to her desk each day. Despite domestic and day job demands and widespread lockdown, Coultas takes the reader on a journey in four sections; from a bedroom to an improvised desk over the North Sea, where she attempts to create an artwork inside an airplane cabin flying over Greenland’s rivers of ice.
The Neverending Quest for the Other Shore: An Epic in Three Cantos Poetry by Sylvie Kandé Translation by Alexander Dickow Wesleyan University Press, February 2022 ISBN: 9780819580733 Hardcover, 176pp; $35
Sylvie Kandé’s neo-epic in three cantos is a double narrative combining today’s tales of African migration to Europe on the one hand, with the legend of Abubakar II on the other: Abubakar, emperor of 14th-Century Mali, sailed West toward the new world, never to return. Kandé’s language deftly weaves a dialogue between these two narratives and between the epic traditions of the globe. Dazzling in its scope, the poem swings between epic stylization, griot storytelling, and colloquial banter, capturing an astonishing range of human experience. Kandé makes of the migrant a new hero, a future hero whose destiny has not yet taken shape, whose stories are still waiting to be told in their fullness and grandeur: the neverending quest has only just begun. Presented in side by side translation into English from French.