Kingdom Animalia

Aracelis Girmay, Author
Aracelis Girmay. BOA (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-934414-62-0
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
Girmay’s poem “Arroz Poetica,” from her 2007 collection Teeth (2007), continues to catalyze antiwar sentiment. This six-part book of verse ends with a short “Ars Poetica”—“May the poems be/ the snail’s trail.// Everywhere I go,/ every inch: quiet record// of the foot’s silver prayer./I lived once./ Thank you./ It was here”—that points up its simultaneous strengths and limitations. On the one hand, there’s nothing as clear and timely as “Arroz” here; it’s almost as if Girmay needed an entire book to write past it and back into a voice that can reflect her own life. On the other, the “foot’s silver prayer” of the “Ars” seems, in this collection, to take in a great deal of America and its global history. Girmay has Eritrean, Puerto Rican, and African-American roots; the section titled “a book of erased cities” brings a poignant, multifaceted sense of loss to poems like “Mississippi Burial, On the Ferry to Algiers”: “it is possible to wear your ghosts like a face,/ which is to say, my face has been here before.” So while there’s nothing as immediately gripping and galvanizing here, the book’s “snail’s trail” offers plenty for the patient. (Oct.)