Dear Angel of Death

Simone White. Ugly Duckling, $18 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-937027-67-4
Combining poetry and prose in her third collection, 2017 Whiting Award winner White (Of Being Dispersed) locates motherhood and the “relentless dailyness of living” as spaces for the exploration of humane modes of being under capitalism. Alert to troublesome histories (“beneath the highways of the Eastern Seaboard/ above the Mason Dixon Line/ underlie so many crossings”), White’s speakers consider the risk and defiance of black motherhood in an economic system where “farms send blueberries and war.” The shadow of mortality informs these meditations, as in the wide-ranging “Dog Poem,” an arresting elegy for a father: “The brain stops even if until the last it performs miraculously the duty of remaining illuminated.” White’s droll sensibilities are evident throughout, whether depicting a stroller—“an adjunct body composed of errand and weight and tenderness and no small amount of power”—or offhandedly lamenting that “One’s mother is often correct.” Finishing with a dense, incisive essay in dialogue with Amiri Baraka, Nathaniel Mackey, and others, White delineates existential dilemmas of blackness while persuasively arguing against “capitulation to the legend of the Music as a superior space for investigating, as digging, as knowledge of freedom.” Wry and eloquent as usual, White critiques and defies commodified life, her “arms gathering all so wide to hold everyone.” (July)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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