Threat Come Close

Four Way. Mar. 2018. 72p. ISBN 9781945588044. pap. $15.95. POETRY
The first section of Fulbright Scholar Coleman's ambitious, turbulent debut is appropriately titled "we weren't safe," as throughout he explores the African American experience both historical ("Black, escaped, free, native, rare// white, sweat-riddled ghosts") and immediate ("Being/ Rage shattered in the body, before/ Each risk I live, let die, follow"). Some agitated poems fill the page vertically, but rage is balanced with outreach ("I need the rush of touch and take/ what's in your pockets for a love just the same"). The speaker asks, "But what if we are made of this violence?" yet declares, "The trees teach me how to break and keep on living." The middle poems are more erotic and meditative but in the end return to explosive mode.
VERDICT Coleman's knotty lines can be a challenge, but he knows his way around language, and the emotion is real.

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