Blues Triumphant

Jonterri Gadson. YesYes (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-936919-37-6
Racial identity and family musings lead Gadson down a circular path in her profoundly candid and revealing debut collection. Gadson relies on repetition of these themes and of the repeating lines in her opening sonnet crown, “Rapture,” to suggest her own grappling with certain ideas and moments. These lines—including “saving him from knowing his own blackness mattered,” “to return to mother’s gentle darkness,” and “how we laughed, that day, at the wrath of God”—are also subsequently used as section titles and display how much Gadson’s upbringing is woven into the collection. Her blackness, her relationship with her mother, and her religious upbringing incessantly provoke expanding clouds of contemplation. “How we laughed, that day, at the wrath of God/ blazing through Idaho’s unbridled sun,/ which baked me into a deeper darkness/ but singed all the white girls red at church camp,” she writes in one of many reflections on her own perceived difference. By reusing and transforming phrases, Gadson reveals how beliefs themselves can morph, externalizing a very interior process. Similarly, the three poems titled “Patricide Epistle” acknowledge the breadth of her familial reckoning. Gadson’s insistent echoing of herself (or her self) illuminates a poignant crux of the collection: despite the passage of time and the depth of inquiry, some questions and hard realities invariably persist. (June)
Reviewed on: 11/07/2016
Release date: 06/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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