cover image Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry

Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry

John Murillo. Four Way, $16.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-945588-47-1

The lucid and urgent second collection from Murillo (Up Jump the Boogie) is composed of 18 lyric poems bookended by a sonnet crown sequence meditating on the deadly shooting of three Brooklyn men. Unflinching and self-implicating (“your hands will shame you often”), Murillo’s speakers paint vivid portraits of neighborhood life, entwining past and present in “the sudden, overcast quiet of the past tense.” These poems juxtapose bruising firsthand experience against dry conceptual categories (“On Lyric Narrative,” “On Confessionalism”) with a dexterous sense of rhythm and internal and end rhyme as influenced by The Notorious B.I.G. and Elizabeth Bishop. Murillo’s rage against stereotypes and systemic injustice burns through these poems, which are often self-critical of enclaves (in a typical moment, cops watch protesting poets “No doubt amused. As when/ a mastiff meets a yapping lapdog”). In “On Prosody,” a childhood memory is triggered by overhearing neighbors fighting, revealing Murillo’s brilliant associative control. Wearing its formal mastery with a light touch, the book shapes firsthand experience into memorable meditations on cultural moments past and present, individual and collective. (Mar.)