cover image Orders of Service

Orders of Service

Willie Lee Kinard. Alice James, $17.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-949944-57-0

Kinard’s ambitious debut weaves disparate elements to create a textured consideration of queer Black identity in the deep South. Drawing on a diverse array of mythological figures from African and Western traditions as well as Black- and Southern-inflected Christian ritual, Kinard’s poems form an intricate cosmology that transcends the personal to reflect on a close-knit, complex community. In “What We Wayward Do,” the poet uses the pluralized voice to great effect, highlighting the sexual power of those on the margins: “Casting is what they call the girls putting in work/ ’round here & yes, we witches are fishermen,/ whip glamours in men’s overalls/ so long as fish rise to the surface/ mere hours before morning’s stilettos.” The poems delight in the lyricism of the body and capture the region’s seductive qualities: “This swamp, a ripe heat,/ one crushed bud of lavender under my tongue,/ one degree over peppermint & I am trying to impress.” Placing themselves within a larger conversation and community of Black poetry, the poems use homage and pastiche to convey how “caring begins in the language.” This praiseworthy offering invites reader to share in the magic of linguistic play. (Nov.)