New Publishers Weekly Reviews for Bashir, King & Warren

New Publishers Weekly Reviews for Bashir, King & Warren

New reviews in Publishers Weekly of Field Theories by Samiya Bashir, Rock | Salt | Stone by Rosamond S. King and I Love it Though by Alli Warren


Field Theories by Samiya Bashir

In her third collection, Bashir (Gospel) displays an intriguingly multivalent approach to the objectivities and subjectivities of black experience reflected in her multimedia collaborations. A series of recurring “coronagraphs” become a tunnel through which the figures of John Henry and his wife Polly Ann speak, forming a sonnet crown that brings new life to an American myth. They are interspersed with four sections structured on the laws of thermodynamics and bearing voices of denizens trapped in a capitalist matrix, “An anthropocene/ of wannabe hepcats” who “pay// defense department rates/ for a sandwich; unremember// memorable jingles.” Bashir’s experimental visual gestures, such as a bullet-hole riddled prose poem on the law of probability, resonate as bluesy meditations on cosmic entropy’s presence in the irreversible occurrences of American lives. While fans of Kevin Young will appreciate the pop of unexpected end rhymes and a present-tense narrative impulse, those of the more associative Ashberian school will enjoy such playful titles as “Universe as an infant: fatter than expected and kind of lumpy,” which features a private visit with Groucho Marx. Whether depicting the faces of marginalized citizens at late-night truck stops or cross-sectioning “bloodstreaks through musculoskeletal structure,” Bashir positions the slings and arrows of black American life as both empirically observable and available for radical, and movingly layered, interpretations. (Mar.) - Publishers Weekly 


Rock | Salt | Stone by Rosamond S. King
King (Island Bodies), an accomplished scholar and performer, opens her formally daring verse debut with a version of “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” recasting it to address Afro-Caribbean diasporas, and starring Yoruba deities Eshu, Oshun, and Ogun. “My brawn it belongs to the Ogun/ my blood it flows into the sea/ the two meet inside a black body/ and whisper you fight to be free,” runs one of several verses before the newly meaningful call to “Bring/ Back.” It is representative of several defining elements of the book, among them a deep engagement with history and mythology, a sense of play, and formal techniques that require the reader to hear—not just read—the poem. King teases out the tension between poem as print object and performance score, not only through the poems’ music, but also through unconventional uses of the page and typography, extreme lineation (“you/ no/ me/ no/ us/ yes/ we/ then/ who”), as well as through onomatopoeia, misspellings (“Her genus lies in the fat that her writing perfectualy invects the reeder in”), and the incorporation of other languages, including Wolof and several Caribbean vernaculars. King uses English while writing beyond and against the bounds of its conventions, and also to foreground the speaking, hearing body—and importantly, the black, queer, female body—as the site where language originates and lands. (Mar.) - Publishers Weekly

I Love it Though by Alli Warren
With “one foot in the office the other lolling/ about the field,” Warren (Here Come the Warm Jets) probes at what “lies between/ want and need.” Amid the comforting concreteness of fact and the energetic forces of dream and instinct, Warren sings “of something that cannot speak/ its name though its signature is everywhere.” Her poems are lean and energetic—most do not exceed a page—but they can be slippery and bewildering in their tight-packed complexity. In “A Better Way to Zone,” for instance, she instructs the tide to “bring some/ little green thing to dust/ behind my eyes// Touch the hotpoint/ and drag the tongue/ over the fat belly/ of a flapping fish.” Warren directs her aptitude for rhyme and aural texture to conveying the shape and expression of human desire (“we have nothing/ between gasps/ of great need”), as well as the political structures that have evolved through these hungers: given the tendency of borders to “burst open under their/ propensity for feasting,” Warren encourages readers to “embrace your finitude/ as the end of accumulation.” (Mar.) - Publishers Weekly