American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins

Penguin. (Poets). Jun. 2018. 112p. ISBN 9780143133186. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9780525504962. POETRY
OrangeReviewStar"Are you not the color of this country's current threat/ Advisory? And of pompons at a school whose mascot/ Is the clementine?" It takes a moment to register that this ode to orange from National Book Award winner Hayes (Lighthead), one of 70 masterly sonnets inspired by the late Wanda Coleman's American Sonnets, references Donald Trump. Written during the first 200 days of Trump's administration, these meditations register righteous anger. "Probably twilight makes blackness dangerous/ Darkness," advises one poem, and another: "The bones managing the body's business are cloaked/ until you assassinate my nigga flesh." But there's celebration, too: "Seven of the ten things I love in the face/ of James Baldwin concern the spiritual/ elasticity of his expressions."
VERDICT "In a second I'll tell you how little/ Writing rescues," says Hayes, but his rescues a lot. Highly recommended.
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