cover image Here Is the Sweet Hand

Here Is the Sweet Hand

francine j harris. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (96p) ISBN 978-0-374-16884-1

With poems that pant, keen, and rumble, harris (play dead) offers a fresh and dazzling third collection. The poet’s subjects are difficult and necessary, rendered in language that “takes information by the hair and rides it// nighttime” to create a record of violence against Black and queer bodies and the ongoing effects of slavery and colonialism (“O, route to burrow, you,/ like pipeline, leak the grease of wayward stream,”). These are poems of solitude and full-throated coupling, of nonhuman and extraterrestrial phenomena, “the hunger and orbit and wobble.” But no list of topics or themes can capture the erotic heat, imaginative breadth, and syntactical daring of this poet’s voice. These are litmus poems, testing the reader’s readiness to be doubted, doubled, called out, and rubbed raw: “You can hide your face until you most succumb (I ain’t spinning.)/ We can get the gist. and then we throat a song.// Come sick ‘em. Stretch a bully on a prong.” In this formidable book, poems resist the intelligence successfully, as the poet opts instead “to live above the intelligence. the flash.” (Aug.)