I reread Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine and went in search for more lyric moments, more lyric thought and on the way I read Morgan Parker’s There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce, Eve L. Ewing’s Electric Arches, Cathy Parker Hong’s Dance Dance Revolution, Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars and Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*Perm**K*T, and Muse and Drudge by Harryette Mullen.
My proudest literary discovery this Summer, so far, is a play called Wig Out by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The play looks into the inner life of NY’s ever expanding ballroom community and, as always in McCraney’s writing, the characters’ speech and the play’s action (I.e. stage notes) bleed into one another like a queer Genesis. As far as new writing, I was completely stunned and irrevocably moved by Tracy K. Smith’s volume, Wade in the Water. The self-titled poem’s repetition reverberates with a ground altering response to brutality and imprisonment. Love. That word which, for once, doesn’t feel wrong or sentimentalized here because, in the world of Smith’s poetics, and in the bloody history of this country’s waters, what other refrain could be uttered?
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele is the documentation of events which inspired the vision and activism which sprouted the Black Lives Matter movement and how people in a nation which once prided themselves in being a melting pot, now labels groups of empowerment as terrorists. The read is a culmination of interactions and events which too often describe an ugly relationship and disconnect between Black America and the rest of the nation. The main voice throughout the read, however, pushes the unity of the community, making the memoir an exposition of love of self, people, and screams to the soul to stand against injustice and acknowledge truths of resistance in America.
Redbone, poems by Mahogany Browne is an immaculate collection of poems that displays rich language and rhetoric, and is full of the love and hurt within relationships of the same community. Redbone, a term meaning a high yellow black woman expresses and deals with the ups and downs and difficulties of lovers and family, and what it means coping with intraracial issues of lust, jealousy, and prowess. Browne’s vernacular is an array of poetic musicality flowing across pages where diction and syntax are happily married to spacial awareness of the page.
My summer syllabus included all the (prose) poetry with all the feels: Safia Elhillo’s The January Children, Shivanee Ramlochan’s Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s The Crown Ain’t Worth Much and Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood.
I found myself in the woods of Appalachia last week, applying sunscreen to my calves and reading In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Give it a shot, start with the Lydia Davis translation of Swann’s Way.
I’m four years late to the party, as compared to some of my friends, but I finally got around to reading Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy this summer. It’s ecologically-focused science fiction with no easy answers and constantly shifting perspectives on characters you thought you knew. Annihilation (the first book) is the shortest and most magnetic of the three, in part because of the idiosyncratic but engaging voice of its protagonist. It stands pretty well on its own. Still, Authority and Acceptance (books two and three, respectively) have their own strengths and are worth reading, especially if the questions left at the end of Annihilation are keeping you up at night.
Currently, Christopher is reading and recommends Catherine Kasper’s Notes from the Committee, a text that first echoes then deviates transcendentally the works of artists like Bruno Schulz and Jorge Luis Borges. Notes from the Committee is, in many ways, similar to Rikki Ducornet’s, Complete Butcher’s Tales, a collection of 50+ stories of the grotesque and sublime, which is fitting as Ducornet, the former illustrator for Borges’ “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” inspiration for Steely Dan‘s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” and Kasper’s mentor at the University of Denver presented her readers with stories that defied expectations and refused to rehash and repeat tired tropes, instead showcasing imagination unbound and wrought with surreal, decadent nightmares and pure magic. A stunning look at modern life and correspondence, Kasper’s Notes from the Committee affects readers similarly to a funhouse mirror; it has been described simultaneously by her peers as a tormented image of contemporary society and as a glorious, elevated comedy. Regardless of a reader’s immediate reaction to her writing, all are forced to admit that, word for word, sentence for sentence, Kasper’s prose and poetic language is simultaneously imitable and beyond reproach.