Black Swim

Copper Canyon. Sept. 2022. 80p. ISBN 9781556596513. pap. $17. POETRY
Many-voiced and whole, the debut full-length collection from Goodly is a vibrant, polyphonic inquiry. The poems celebrate and lament, root deeply in the body and soar beyond, articulate injustice and embody joy. “Siren” declares that “I refuse/ my sunken name/ and sing to a body/ I want for myself.” An elegy for a lost sister both asks and promises, “if there is a purpose in this life/ let me wash my face in it.” “R&B Facts” is proud, mournful, elegiac, and hopeful at once. Again and again, the poems surprise with their multitude of selves and connective tissues, their use of art, language, and body to enliven and to push against worn singular narratives. A “poem doesn’t have to mean anything/ a poem is a fire with no end/ if given another chance in this life/ I’d make peace with getting weaker everyday.” Whether expressed in the talismanic joy of donning all one’s necklaces or the sensation that “we are a waltz crawling content on the floor/ we are a tenor too perfectly in the middle of things/ both hysterical men both staying innocent together,” Goodly’s emotional and empathic range is expansive. And, if it isn’t already clear, they write lines a reader will repeat like an incantation.
VERDICT A lyrical, nuanced, and inventive debut.
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