FINE ARTS

semiautomatic

Wesleyan Univ. (Poetry). Oct. 2017. 104p. ISBN 9780819577436. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780819577450. POETRY
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OrangeReviewStarIn her typically uncompromising and intelligent language, award-winning poet Shockley (the new black) investigates the ongoing abuses suffered by African Americans while connecting them to sociopolitical threats worldwide ("through the holes in michael brown's body, I see: ☒ the fucking fracking chemicals bleeding into the groundwater/…☒ the coke brothers controlling the flow"). From the numerous elegies in "a-lyrical ballad (or, how america reminds us of the value of family"), sardonically titled and embodying awful family grieving, to "what's not to liken" ("the black girl was pinned to the ground like:/ (a) an amateur wrestler in a professional fight./ (b) swimming in a private pool is a threat to national security"), Shockley rattles readers with attentive portraits of incidents that will (sadly) be recognized. Shockley travels abroad to honor W.E.B. Du Bois in Ghana, revisits the killing of Mark Duggan in 2011 London, and provides historical context as well; one poem blends excerpts from Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Yamiceh Alcindor's "Sex Trafficking in the USA" to chilling effect. But these poems aren't just reportage; ferocious wordplay and bristling language ("our rosier news is no nooses") see to that.
VERDICT Important for wide-ranging collections.

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