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The new black (Wesleyan Poetry Series) Hardcover – March 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shockley's second book, which follows 2006's a half-red sea, uses an energetic mix of forms to channel a variety of poets' auras—from Lucille Clifton and nikki giovanni to Jayne Cortez and John Cage—in attempting to deliver the title effect. Shockley does deliver winning mesostics, Olsonian open-fieldings, verse epistles, and elliptical fragmentary stanzas as she ranges over relatively conventional first-person memories ("i was waiting on a poem when/ my grandfather pushed through the screen door"), a sad "cinder ella" tale of being carded ("her man's kiss did not revive her"), and the terse imagism of poems like "dear ink jet": "black fast. greasy lightning./ won't smear. won't rub off." Despite the title's unifying gesture, however, and Shockley's clear mastery of the history of 20th-century poetry, African-American and otherwise, the collection feels more like a grab-baggy first book than a synthetic second. An "ode to my blackness" ("you are the tunnel john henry died to carve") is preceded by '70s-style political sermonizing ("if/ i had/ a dollar for// every/ drop of/ iraqi blood spilled,// every/ woman raped,/ every life destroyed// in this war,/ i'd be/ halliburton."), before both give way to a poem about losing one's virginity while listening to Prince. A lot of The New Black feels familiar in a good way. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Shockley takes a swinging approach to serious matters in her pirouetting poems. On the historical front, she imagines a beseeching yet barbed �lost� letter of apology and petition from Frederick Douglass to his 53-year-old daughter about his new wife, addresses the paradoxes inherent in Thomas Jefferson�s life in a complexly haunting poem about Monticello, and reveals a little-known connection between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. Shockley also offers elegant, honoring elegies for black women writers felled by cancer, and reflections on the pain and achievements of Frida Kahlo. Her poetics are inventive and seductive; she�s jaunty and enraged, funny, profound, and sexy. Neatly scathing about political abominations and the grim realities many black children face, Shockley is nimble and ironic in her parsing of the new racism and attitudes toward blackness. Here, too, is a lovely portrait of her sister pregnant with twins and a lyric in praise of the distinct beauty of southern trees. Full of surprising turnabouts and shaped by a deep quest for knowledge and understanding, Shockley�s inviting and invigorating collection shimmers with positive creative energy. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819571407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819571403
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,852,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By dockstone on August 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book mixes traditional form with innovative writing - the ideas are new and old at the same time, weaving a place where we are reminded how history has changed, yes, but perhaps how not enough has changed in terms of race, and how we must pick up ourselves and find a new way to transform our country. The new black is about women, about black women, about freedom and equality, and about invoking historical figures to remind us how history can repeat itself even when it seems like things are so different - perhaps the same thing can still happen in different spaces, different times. The language of this book is phenomenal, it's personal, it's freeing. The imagery and the innovation make you re-think things yourself. It's quite lovely and I think it's perfect to be used in a class teaching experimental poetry of our time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Brown on April 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I especially enjoy the artistic approach used to express the views throughout the wonderful works of poetry. I immediately read the entire book after I received it in the mail. Kudos the the designer of the cover also!
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