Monday, June 28, 2021

Ja'net Danielo's "The Song of Our Disappearing"




These are poems of quietly devastating grief, life-haunted poems of absence, breath-taking for their clear, lyrical language, their precise and loving rendering of the physical world, their nuanced explosion of image into image, poems that move beyond elegy toward a deeper imagining. Here, death is a kind of disappearance, yes, but also a mystery, a transformation, “the swarm of cells rearranging themselves/ into something other/ … of never before;” here, each existence, human and otherwise, is “a brief but holy thing.” Reading these poems I was reminded of how, while the shape of our grief changes over time, grief also changes us, alters us permanently, becoming part of who and what we are, deepening us, making us also more holy in its wake.

Cecilia Woloch, author of Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem


Grief recasts everything, suddenly and sharply. It uproots the ghosts—of our childhoods, our ancestors, our collective and private memories—and transforms the concrete world we thought we knew into one now fluctuating and liminal. The Song of Our Disappearing navigates the bewildering aftermath of a father’s death, finding a clear and rising voice somewhere between the stark hospital room that holds the ventilator’s sharp hiss and the remembered dust of the racetrack where hooves pull clouds from the ground. Elegy becomes an act of metamorphosis as Ja’net Danielo excavates both past and present to reveal a song unearthed from the ash of the heart—a lyric guide for walking with, listening to, and being transformed by the losses that haunt us most. 

Julia Bouwsma, author of Midden and Work by Bloodlight

I can’t helped being knocked out and also deeply inspired by the summoning voice and vision of Ja’net Danielo. The poems in her debut collection The Song of Our Disappearing are breathtaking in their rich and fulsome physicality, their deft shaping of personal, familial, and corporeal landscapes around her, and the pitch-perfect songs that burn brightly through crucial and complex human concerns of death, grief, longing. So much to admire here, and to look forward to in this poet whose generosity of spirit and breadth of imagination match the vibrancy of natural and lived in worlds she observes so carefully, inhabiting desire through poetry that honors “the language of horses […] “those beautiful machines […] Not of blood, but of dust—a song unearthed from the ash of the heart.”

Michelle Bitting, author of Broken Kingdom

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Jason B. Crawford's "Twerkable Moments"




Twerkable Moments is a summertime Michigan house party in the early 2000’s, and a Springtime cookout from just last week. Jason asks “Who among us is not built of a party” while moving from a sweaty dancefloor near the bar to a backyard, reclaiming space and self along the way. Who among us hasn’t tried to learn a dance from someone older and failed? Who among us hasn’t done the dance with all the confidence we could muster, anyway? These poems are a teaching, an invitation to remember and to learn. A celebratory invocation of joy in spite of, joy that survives and traverses, and joy that for damn sho’ twerks.

- Darius Simpson

Twerkable Moments pulsates with rich sounds and searing imagery, transforming the page into a three-dimensional universe that takes all of our senses to navigate. I am enamored with the magic Crawford has woven in these poems, where dancing is not merely dancing, but world building. In these stanzas exist a mythic space without limitations, where dancing boys could be wolves or “glitter could cast a spell and bring all my dead/ loves back to life”. Twerkable Moments does not turn its gaze away from the omnipresent dangers that lurk just beyond the page, “The hunters/ or their arrows/ or bullets”. Rather, it celebrates the body’s survival despite. At the center of these poems lies the question: “What joy have you brought for us to/ feed on?”. I leave this collection well fed and breathless.

- Jihyun Yun, author of Some Are Always Hungry

In their collection Twerkable Moments, Jason B. Crawford populates these pages with beats and bodies, music lyrics that take over us before we realize we’re even singing along. To read these poems is to wade through a night club where the music works like a hex, where in the midst of the dancing crowd our speaker gropes for love and acceptance. And the dancefloor serves as a perfect metaphor for the Black and queer body trying to survive in these poems; surrounded by chaos, violence, and cultural appropriation, the speaker of this collection gives in to the corporeal joy of dance. But dance is not only about joy or survival, it’s also about reclamation. Crawford writes, “This is mine / and I will take it back / one        ass     cheek / at a time,” fashioning the Black, queer, and dancing body into a weapon. And whatever is slain in their wake, Crawford reminds us to always look back at it.

-Taylor Byas, author of Blood Warm