Some are genre crossers, bucking poetic insularity. Ambition ran high, and so did a restless urge not simply to fit in but to call new shots. An Aziza Barnes poem can scorch the earth without breaking a sweat. The speaker finds a centipede near her writing desk. To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem.
To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem. Emerging poets of this digital-native generation are ready to work at getting their words and their names out there. Over the next decade, a remarkable array of talent found a home there, including Natasha Trethewey and Tracy K. Long Soldier goes further: They strain to think anew about selfhood and group membership. This was the same week that President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Its ascendancy has raised poetically energizing questions about identity. I say it mine. Instead, it settles in a place of bone-deep weariness. Is poetry up to the task? Other poets have shown a talent for building an audience in less embodied ways. They call the police, three squad cars appear, and an officer begins interrogating. But mainstreaming rarely happens without turbulence. The speaker runs away, climbs a tree, scales a wall, falls back to Earth—eventually hobbling home to face abiding parental disappointment. The Sioux fought because they were starving: Of course they have: Her visual artistry at work, she avails herself of the spatial elements of text—ellipses, disjunction, concrete poetry, blank space—to convey uncertainty and instability. Ambition ran high, and so did a restless urge not simply to fit in but to call new shots. The Dark Room alumni have come in for their share of sharp critiques as they have taken seats at a table that has been extended but is still very much within establishment walls. While the language poets were upending lateth-century American poetry—trying to subvert the powers that be by flouting expressive conventions—minority poets were pushing to integrate the literary world and the canon, as well as championing alternatives. Were they, she demanded, making a last stand against the hordes of up-and-coming poets of different skin complexions and different eye slants? Long Soldier sets this in contrast to a quiet moment with her estranged father over breakfast in her kitchen. The quest to truly contain multitudes—to probe the protean self and the society that shapes and reshapes it—within a coherent lyric is still a radical experiment. Poets who know their worth and throw themselves into convincing us of it may be just the poets to expand and sustain an art form. He also tirelessly shares what he is reading with his 28, Twitter followers, posting daily screenshots of pages from books that have excited him.
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