cover image The Republics

The Republics

Nathalie Handal. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $15.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-8229-6332-5

Playwright, editor, and poet Handal's fifth collection of poetry balances what she calls "flash reportages" with vivid lyric and image. Built out of a patchwork of powerful blocks of monologue or narrative, and threaded with Spanish and Haitian Creole, the book's texture parallels those of "a multicolored coat," "a mirror of unfinished voices," and "a scarf tangled in sepia." Similar to Poet in Andalucia (2012), which stemmed from Handal's personal explorations in Spain, this collection began as a self-directed examination of her relationships with Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The poems spring forth with a spontaneity and urgency that counterbalance the restrained flourishes of her previous work. Handal watches and waits to "catch what aches in beauty," telling stories of Haitians and Dominicans with searing honesty. Where words, music, and despair occupy physical space, "Language falls asleep on my sofa," as one voice announces. "My boots, my scratches, my hurt, my loving crying staring, one domino at a time, one gourde at a time," cries a voice in "Listening to Crickets," which is dedicated to those buried in mass graves after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Handal artfully captures the desire, the rawness of life, and the "misery that burns the soul" of the people she encounters. (Mar.)