Coping with Gravity: Poems

Maxine Clair, Author Washington Writers' Publishing House $7 (53p) ISBN 978-0-931846-32-8
One of two winners of an annual Washington, D.C.-area competition sponsored by the publisher, this collection offers slice-of-life poems that center on the experiences of black women. Eschewing political rhetoric, Clair juxtaposes images of everyday events to convey her sense that life is a struggle against gravity: ``Speeding down this elevator shaft this morning/ I am struck by the imperceptible/ difference between riding/ and falling.'' Her more effective poems combine harsh realism and gritty detail with a dialect rooted in black culture, evocative of the rhythms and intonations of jazz and jive. In ``For Jesse Who Froze to Death,'' Clair elegizes: ``Winter's a hard core Big Mamma, Jesse./ We've seen her snowflakes/ stripping their lace,/ throwing their bodies down/ with no grace,/ yes, we know her. . . . / She's a junkie, Jesse,/her stuff's uncut,/ she'll steal your life/if you nod.'' Unfortunately, Claire's work is frequently facile, where the banalities of daily existence are her starting point and finish line. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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