The Blue-Tail Fly by Vievee Francis

“So let us go on— / swatting the locusts that decimate / the ordered fields—insisting upon graphs, / the architecture of command and sequence,” Vievee Francis, my first poetry teacher and dear friend, proclaims in “The Scale of Empire,” the opening poem in her first collection The Blue-Tail Fly. To be sure, there is so much to marvel at in this collection, but it is the architectures of sentences like this—the disruption/destruction of nested locusts—that delights me.

Eva-Mary by Linda McCarriston

Ever since Vievee Francis introduced me to Linda McCarriston’s Eva-Mary, I cannot shake the books careful and surprising structure. When I go to art, sometimes, I want to be reminded of pain, because pain can bring me that closer to appreciating my own life—make no mistake, this book is relentless pain.

Brutal Imagination by Cornelius Eady

“When called, I come. / My job is to get things done,” begins Cornelius Eady’s conjuring of Susan Smith’s imagined killer in Brutal Imagination. It amazes me what Eady accomplishes: he gives Smith what she wants by deploying the tools we have come to love from Eady; he gives her the Black man she needed, then lets the figure dissolve back into an absurd white imagination—that, for me, is the most careful translation of rage I have ever seen in any collection.

Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip

Wow, how do I begin to talk of M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!, a collection that can’t (?) and/or won’t (?) articulate the horrors aboard the slave ship of the same name, because the language surrounding the events are composed of legal jargon—the same colonial tools used to enslave the captured from the outset. Zong!, as I heard a poet lecture at Warren Wilson once, holds language suspect, which is what I always attempt to do in my own work.

Rock Harbor by Carl Phillips

I can remember many years ago scratching my head over Carl Phillips’ Rock Harbor, because I had never encountered labyrinthine sentence constructions like that—especially not in my early experiences with poetry. At the time, I was just starting to come out as gay to people, so the speakers in the poems kept seducing me back into the work; made me want to parse out the poems’ sentences, so that I might understand, perhaps, something about my Black queer self.

A Cave Canem alum, Tommye Blount is the author of Fantasia for the Man in Blue (Four Way Books, 2020) and What Are We Not For (Bull City Press, 2016). A graduate from Warren Wilson College, he has been the recipient of a fellowship from Kresge Arts in Detroit and the John Atherton scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His work has been featured in Magma, New England Review, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Ecotone, Ninth Letter, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Detroit, Tommye now lives in Novi, Michigan.

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