Heaven Is All Goodbyes

Tongo Eisen-Martin. City Lights, $15.95 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-0-87286-745-1
Eisen-Martin (Someone’s Dead Already) responds to state violence, deindustrialization, police brutality, the prison industrial-complex, and more in this churning whirlpool that records the complicated experiences faced by members of the African diaspora in America. He looks to history, writing of “the way condemned Africans fought their way back to the ocean only to find waves made of/ 1920s burned up piano parts/ European backdoor deals/ and red flowers for widows who spend all day in the sun mumbling at San Francisco.” But as an educator and organizer, Eisen-Martin is also steeped in the current moment. The passion with which he writes calls the reader to join the masses in the streets: “you are going to want/ to lose that job/ before the revolution hits.” It’s a slippery, complex collection; long poems of polyphonic voices slalom across the margins of the page while unattributed quotes pop in and out, like singular expressions in a protest crowd. “We got plenty of pain/ to stay on this guitar/ for one hundred years,” declares an anonymous voice in “May Day” amid swirls of lament and celebration. Unabashedly a product of 21st-century America and fully attuned to its historical lineage, Eisen-Martin’s impeccable collection is a crucial document of this time. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/21/2017
Release date: 09/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
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