cover image A Swarm of Bees in High Court

A Swarm of Bees in High Court

Tonya M. Foster. Belladonna (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-9885399-1-4

Exploring the formal elements of lyrical musicality while commenting on dislocation and identity, Foster produces the rare debut collection that displays a marvelous understanding of how to merge form and content. She works in modified/hybridized haiku throughout most of the collection, with many of the poems featuring near anaphora and homophones to highlight not only parallels between moments of waking consciousness and sleep, but also intersections of identity in a speaker who is physically located (in her case in Harlem), yet existentially dislocated and alienated. She often divides words with parentheses or a slash to double a word’s meaning—doubling, double consciousness, and two-ness are themes woven into the fabric of the collection. In “In/somniloquies,” she writes, “Knots of a woman/ who ain’t numb with want. Who’s not/ effaced by shut eyes?// Nots form this woman/ who sugars her mustards, who’ll/ want but never ask.” Foster uses echoes to form simultaneous melodies. At times, her poems read as the anxiety of a somniloquist (someone who talks while asleep); at other times, they read as poems of witness, as lucid observations of the sounds and sights of the speaker’s world. Foster’s collection is a hat trick: sonically rich, complex in its formal elements and constraints, and haunting in its examination of dislocation—a definite must for any lover of poetry. (Sept.)