cover image Quiet


Victoria Adukwei. Knopf, $28 (112p) ISBN 978-0-593-53564-6

The remarkable debut from Adukwei wrestles with silence and its opposite in poems of masterful linguistic variety and skill. Many of these pieces have a historical scope and vision while still feeling grounded in the complexities of the present day. In “Revision,” she writes, “from the 1400s, the area later known as the gold coast would be (choose one)/ discovered/ invaded/ visited/ landed upon// by// europeans/ illegal aliens/ migrant workers/ tourists/ christians// hailing from the ports of// sweden/ denmark/ england/ the netherlands/ portugal/ prussia.” The exceptional poem, “The Ultra-Black Fish,” features lines crossed out to demonstrate the importance of diction in storytelling: “Ultra-black fish are/ one example, & in 2020 sixteen varieties of these were/ discovered.” “Discovered” is crossed out, and the line revised to “captured./ The level of pigment in their/ skin was so high that it was found to absorb 99.956%/ of the light that touched it. Karen, a marine biologist,/ made the discovery.” “Made the discovery” is crossed out and revised to “came across them by accident.” Adukwei’s intriguing and original vision makes this a standout contribution to contemporary poetry. (Feb.)