Ilya Kaminsky’s second poetry collection, Deaf Republic, is an exhilarating and anguished poetic narrative. Sixty poems tell the story of an unspecified event wherein, “SOLDIERS—arrive in Vasenka to ‘protect our freedom,’ speaking a language no one understands.” The chilling poems that begin and end the collection suggest an acceptance of the preposterous—an all too familiar, yet distressing reality in today’s Unites States of America.
I turned to the breath-steamed window, parting a pane with my ungloved hand. There among the ornamental maples of the cemetery, I could just make out the wise men: bulb-lit, clustered, faces in prayerful repose. They appeared the day after Thanksgiving and stood through late January, long after we’d packed the plastic mistletoe in tissue, dragged molting trees to the curb. I never found out where the extension cords led.
The poetry reader and writer in me now wants to ensconce Ship of Fool in some august and impressive literary tradition, but Fool reminds me most of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of comics (read “graphic novels”) from the early ‘90s. Like Gaiman’s pantheon of “The Endless” with Morpheus (or Dream) at its epicenter, Fool’s universe is likewise peopled with archetypes of nefarious or innocuous intent to confront, avoid, and sometimes spill coffee (or an accidental ice age) on. Which is to say, Fool is anything but a bore.
Mother casually mentioned that prior to her becoming a teenager, Lonnie had participated in a “well-known” race riot while in the employ of MoPac. Later on, she editorialized about it now and then . . . . Whenever she mentioned the race riot, Mother frequently referred to Lonnie, in a matter-of-fact tone, as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
JENNIFER MILITELLO is the author of Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013) and Flinch of Song, winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The North American Review, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Best New Poets 2008.
In my quest to sight an existential piece of Lonnie among the ruins of the Elaine Race Massacre, I had, after all, concluded history can be doubtless and too much and too little abided in the fields and fury of Phillips County for Lonnie and me to inhabit any amicable turf there–too much intervening and unsympathetic time, too much dismay as I turned the leaves of record, which bore too much descent and strife and turpitude, too little comity, too little heart.
Coffins had already been ordered. The promise to the lynch mob by the County fathers nearly two years previously would now be kept, but the Moore Six continued to believe in Scipio Jones.
For the great stories alone found in this collection, it would be a masterwork, but the true game-changer is how the collection works together, going from lyric realism to controlled-yet-wildly reaching stories of imagination in which the author and reader disappear before the potency of story—stories which take our world and invert it and show it impossibly aching, failing, bursting at the epoch of dystopian flounder.
TONY MAGISTRALE is Professor and Chair of the English Department at the University of Vermont. He is the author of What She Says About Love.
Blacks hid in the woods, coppices and in the slough that ran roughly along Route 44. Several blacks emerged from the slough holding up their hands, but they were shot and killed. Other African-Americans simply ran, but they too were gunned down–frequently among lineated cotton rows–at the hands of the posses.