In Erín Moure’s 2012 collection, she spreads the ashes of her mother, who was subject to the abject violence that took place during World War II, in a village near the Davydivka River in what is now present-day Ukraine. The word “tragedy” feels inadequate to describe these experiences.
It is well understood by now the heavy toll that coal mining takes on geographic landscapes, their local populations, and the climate, despite practices of environmental remediation. There is also, however, another toll that mining takes—that all labor takes—on our individual bodies and lives.
“As we leave the end of one year and begin another, I am thinking about time: the threatened loss of the present, the ways in which we necessarily inscribe ourselves into history, and writing not as a forgetting, but a remembering.”
Despite our attempts to capture the body with language and understand it as a unified whole that is closed off and divided against the world, we are not whole, nor are we closed.
The essence of anything lies in its temporal existence, and because everything is temporal, nothing is the same; the thing itself changes over time. Nick Montfort encourages his readers to investigate and reinvestigate the poems in his 2014 collection because the ground here is always shifting.
M. NourbeSe Philip makes it clear that the material body, personal identity, and non-dominant culture become sites of violence when they are submitted to totalizing modes of financialization. In her 2008 book of poetry, this violence is demonstrated in its most immediate and graphic form: chattel slavery.
Susan Briante’s 2016 collection illustrates that the metaphor of market value is not only hollow but violent, since we have no choice but to be interpellated by it. The market scans us, calculates pecuniary value; in return we must surrender everything else.
The poet, avant-garde musician, and dramatist Russell Atkins plays with the parallel and incongruency between poetry and music by reframing their primary functions, focusing not on their sonic qualities but instead on their visual construction, the quality that is effaced during performance.
In calling attention to her own unknowability, Harryette Mullen deconstructs preconceived notions about the delimited spaces of urban/rural, Black/white dichotomies, while enlarging the boundaries for Black writing, Black experience, and Black authority.
Humans derive pleasure in finding order within disorder. We seek out patterns and meaning, even when there is none to be found. P. Inman’s 1982 book, through its performance of an open and chaotic writing system, calls our attention back to how heavy this burden of meaning can become.