cover image Blood Aria

Blood Aria

Christopher Nelson. Univ. of Wisconsin, $16.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-299-33154-2

Nelson’s debut expertly employs poetic tension, whether the friction between form and content, or the myriad ways in which the poetic line can disrupt the sentence. A book-length sequence, these poems span a range of forms, including couplets, tercets, sweeping Whitmanesque lines, and luminous fragments, all unified by a shared concern with whether violence can be generative, clearing the way for something new “even after it hisses in the fire.” In “Capital City at Midnight,” he writes, “twenty states don’t include/ sexual orientation in their hate-crimes laws. Incomplete because of underreporting and a tradition of/ fear and shame.” As the book unfolds, Nelson explores the ways that this “tradition of fear and shame” is embedded and enacted within language itself. In “Hart & Sword,” for instance, he laments “the folly of a language that demands objects/ must have a possessor.” Nelson’s terse line breaks further amplify the book’s ambitious and subtle considerations. In poems that are as impressive in their craft as they are progressive in their thinking, Nelson demonstrates the ways language and activism intersect. (Mar.)