cover image The Shared World

The Shared World

Vievee Francis. TriQuarterly, $22 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8101-4519-1

The bountiful and superbly crafted fourth collection by Francis (Forest Primeval) draws from her experience as a Black woman in the U.S., from the West Texas Panhandle to Detroit, South Carolina to “this free Vermont border”: “I am not safe/ anyplace, and no place can save me. Just look what the mountains/ have done to me. Exactly what the city did—and then some.” In a voice that bristles and moans (“like marrow, a blood-yolk/ spilled upon the counter”), the poet challenges the reader, “I am not/ afraid of a word. You say black/ I say Blacker,” and speaks as witness and guide: “History can’t be shaken, brushed off./ It can only be... addressed. Where it lives// I go. Take my hand. I’ll take you./ There, there.” Icons of Black history anchor many pieces, including Marvin Gaye, Rosa Parks, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and the victims of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing: “I knew early on I could be blown to bits by any/ white man with enough rage.” “I haven’t given up but have so little left/ to give,” Francis writes. “That’s right. Sometimes/ we settle for whatever/ doesn’t harm.” Fierce and tender, probing and pitiless, this outstanding volume reveals the resonance and range of the poet’s exceptional work. (Apr.)