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Rise Paperback – June 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
"Let's call this, the way a sound is born," suggests Jordan's speaker, with an acute desire to articulate beauty tempered by taut emotional restraint. Racial slurs, rage and fistfights receive a cold monotone; the voice softens slightly into empathy, melancholy and sometimes humor in response to music (Sidney Bechet, John Coltrane, Robert Johnson), the disenfranchised, "[t]he philosopher, Richard Pryor" or divine intervention: the radio played "four Eddie Harris tunes in a row." In "Beggar's Song," Jordan imagines the longings of a man afraid of love: "If I could dream now,/ A dark woman would obsess/ Over my hands."
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Jordan's debut collection opens with a pummeling poem about a confrontation between a white man and a black man in a bar in Washington, D.C., a concussive clash that resounds throughout the book like a booming heart or a bass drum. Blues lyrics and field hollers infuse and shape his lines; jazz supplies a lustrous ambience and such heroes as Ellington, Davis, and Monk. Although Jordan's poems move with musical grace and surety, his imagery is thickly visual and arrestingly tactile, and violence hovers chillingly in the wings. These are poems about racism in America, painful memories and ongoing nightmares, the emotional fallout of headlined tragedies (the death of Yusuf Hawkins), and such private horrors as being stopped by the police as a boy for no crime other than being black. But there is benevolence in these finely crafted, subtly formal poems and free-floating faith as Jordan praises the strength and beauty of women and embraces African American history and art with sorrow-dappled pride. Donna Seaman
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