cover image Hum


Jamaal May. Alice James (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-938584-02-2

May’s debut lends beauty and order to contemporary consciousness through air-tight poems that still allow the reader room to breathe. Linguistically acrobatic, these poems render the violence of a body’s undoing—by war, by drugs—and the mind’s in ways that are beautifully crafted, whether formal or free, and resistant to sentimentality. “Hold a pomegranate in your palm,/ imagine ways to split it, think of the breaking/ skin as shrapnel. Remember granada/ means grenade because grenade/ takes its name from the fruit,/ so identify war by what it takes away.” This book relentlessly explores power and forgiveness, love and fear: “I don’t expect you to look into ink/ sprawled across a supremacist’s flesh/ and find a thrush vibrating with birdsong,/ but I want to find more than just/ the cawing of crows.” While using the word “political” to describe poems can be problematic, May, a teacher, seems acutely aware of the injustices in our current condition, but he seeks to educate rather than preach; his poems, exquisitely balanced by a sharp intelligence mixed with earnestness, makes his debut a marvel. (Nov.)