cover image Blood


Shane McCrae. Noemi Press (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (91p) ISBN 978-1-934819-30-2

McCrae’s second collection is a stunning lyric exegesis of blood, showing the blood in our bodies to be a text that inscribes the self with its legacy, life force, violence, and death. Bracketed by accounts of a slave uprising, the collection begins with the impaled heads of insurgents, “The white men recognized them mounted them/ to make the air/ Rotten and come from them/ Rotten/ the meat in their necks hanging down/ Like ivy on the gates of heaven,” and ends with the knowledge that “…you kill a man you can’t// murder him forever/ not even for that stretch of forever/ white folks own.” Throughout, McCrae draws on historical works, both primary accounts and scholarly texts, moving from an acutely brutal and keenly empathetic series of poems in the voice of a slave who has attempted escape with her family, to poems based on ex-slaves’ narratives and accounts of lynching and the voices of white racists. McCrae’s poetic line engages document and testimony with remarkable urgency and empathy while materializing the rift and trauma embedded in these histories. The collection makes its final shift into autobiography in a set of poems addressed to an estranged brother. As the poet’s gaze turns inward, the sense of selfhood seems to reach necessarily beyond the individual: “Our bodies we is always walking leaking/ like a ghost can’t be a body in one place.” (August)