Be Recorder

Graywolf. Aug. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9781555978488. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781555978921. POETRY
In the eponymous middle section of her accomplished, vibrantly subversive new work, National Book Critics Circle finalist Giménez Smith (Milk and Filth) explains “though I was born in America/ I wasn’t born American,” adding “I became American/ when I…had sex with a white boy/ or when I thought my first/ racist thought.” She’s already clarified the rough rub of having people project an idea on her (and the “second sense” that she must develop in anticipation); of being a “puppet girl” defined by others who eventually decides she’ll be “a poet, both brilliant and mean”; of sensing unshakeable constraints (not for nothing do the words serf and fiefdom surface here); of watching those sharing her constraints transformed into “new animals” by American money and power. And she’s already declared “a more necessary revolution awaits us,” an agenda that unfolds until the end: “insurrection against the wound and for// the animal.”
VERDICT “Can I trust the ardor/ or is it just theatre/ …shall I ask permission/ do I beg for a license”: Giménez Smith asks key questions in roiled times, and her greatest strength is nailing an outsider’s raw uncertainty, assumptions never made, immunity never achieved.

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