cover image Sometimes I Never Suffered

Sometimes I Never Suffered

Shane McCrae. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (112p) ISBN 978-0-374-24081-3

The stunning fifth book from McCrae (The Gilded Auction Block) is steeped in the truths of witness and imagination. In poems that wrestle, doubt, and syntactically and rhythmically double-back on themselves, McCrae writes of such characters as the “Hastily Assembled Angel,” who “was/ Not God and could be wrong.” McCrae’s angel ponders a line that reads “in the midst of life we are in death,” while Jim Limber, a recurring character, states: “I can’t die/ Enough for all the life I see.” These poems see the white world as it chooses not to be seen, and illuminate the contradictions, disappointments, and loneliness that comes with paying true witness. As Limber wonders: “If I’ve earned my reward where is the life where I can spend it.” In these pages, heaven is an “ordinary garden” that has been “set free,” and each poem transcends with feeling, particularity, and honesty. This newest collection continues McCrae’s powerful examination into race, forgiveness, and meaning in America, making it an essential contribution to contemporary poetry. (Aug.)