Admit One: An American Scrapbook by Martha Collins, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016, 104 pp/, $15.95
Last spring’s release of Martha Collins’s Admit One: An American Scrapbook, is the third in a series that includes the volumes Blue Front and White Papers. The trilogy as a whole wrestles with race and racism in America from the perspective of a white woman and the history of family and country that precedes and includes her. In her work overall, Collins goes past the paralyzing silence of white guilt and into the active language of implication. (more…)
I Carry My Mother by Lesléa Newman, Headmistress Press, 2015, 108 pp/, $10.00
Lesléa Newman’s latest book, I Carry My Mother takes as its subject the death of the author’s mother and the process of grieving this loss. In this unflinching, layered account, Newman opens a window on a human experience deeply her own and also universally relatable. These poems swing between the two poles of “my mother is alive and not alive” (“In the ICU”) and linger in a liminal zone where both are true. They address role reversals, from daughter to orphan, child to caregiver, and daughter to partner, as when the mother’s ring is now worn on a chain beside the daughter’s heart, “till death do us part,” in “Parting Gift.” Such reversals leave the speaker reeling in confusion, captured poignantly in the plaintive line, “Are you my mother?” from “Hospice Haiku.” The simplicity here is startling and true. Then there’s the refrain of “A daughter’s a daughter for all of her life” that runs through one poem, showing that despite shifting roles, some things are cemented in constancy.
City of Eternal Spring by Afaa Michael Weaver, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014, 96pp/, $15.95
City of Eternal Spring confirms what I felt when I first started reading Afaa Michael Weaver’s poems about ten years ago. He is a master poet who is comfortable in his craft at the same time that he takes unusual risks to keep the reader at the edge of his/her emotions and the poem on the edge of the possible. There is, for example, the one-sentence poem, which replicates the way thought moves through the labyrinth of reason and emotion. I am thinking of poems like “What the Lotus Said,” “On Hearing that Michael Jackson Died,” and the truly exceptional “Archeology of Time: Convertibles.”