cover image Bluest Nude

Bluest Nude

Ama Codjoe. Milkweed, $16 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-57131-542-7

In this frequently gripping debut, Codjoe offers precisely crafted poems dealing with desire, memory, art, and ancestry. Her interest in public and private looking, in what is seen and perceived over what is, is carefully displayed in poems such as “Labor,” which opens: “The Upper West Side brims/ with Black women heaving Bugaboo/ strollers as if maneuvering horseless plows.” There are well-timed insights throughout the poem—“I know we use/ the same word to describe work/ and the work of giving birth”—building to a personal reckoning that highlights Codjoe’s gift at blending commentary and feeling. “I want to be seen clearly or not at all,” she declares in the title poem. In “Diamondback,” she beautifully likens the snake to “an organ coiled/ deep inside or a lasso/ of lightning and high/ noon,” while the haunting poem “She Said” that makes up the second section poignantly riffs: “the hear in hearing the ear the he the he in she the sh in shame the me the shh in me the ssshhhhh the y in saying the why the say the said the sad the sad i the scared i terrified she tried to say the test in testify.” This excellent book is worth multiple readings. (Sept.)