cover image Sleeping Under the Tree of Life

Sleeping Under the Tree of Life

Sheree Renée Thomas. Aqueduct, $12 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-61976-111-7

The lyrical gifts of Thomas, editor of the celebrated Dark Matter anthologies, are on full display in this collection of poetry and short fiction. Her poems are imbued with rich, sensual imagery and range over subjects mundane, fantastical, and somewhere in between: the memory of a mother braiding her daughter’s hair in “Rootwork”; an oracle in the form of a homeless woman whose “mismatch clothes/ cover robes that got wings” in “Visitation of the Oracle at McKain Street”; and the mythological Arachne, “Star weaver of tears,” in “Arachne Star” and “Arachne on the Rebound.” She invokes the rhythms of African-American ring shouts and the dense, humid atmosphere of the American South. Her stories include reinventions of mythology, such as Medusa and Arachne ambushing the goddess Athena in revenge in “Arachne & Medusa Jump Athena,” and haunting modern folktales about women with their roots in rivers (in “River, Clap Your Hands”) and swamp trees (in “Tree of the Forest Seven Bells”), with references to recent natural disasters and human-created pollution. Thomas’s skill with poetry and prose is remarkable, and even the shortest poems in this volume contain ideas and images that will linger in the reader’s mind. (Aug.)