Jackqueline Frost, The Antidote (Compline), 81 pp.—The spelling of the author’s name is “right,” that is, editorially, [sic], a disavowal of an intervention into the current norms governing given names. And the given is, in this articulation of a participant in the Oakland/San Francisco commune, a pre- Nonsite Collective, post-Occupy coalition of activists, compulsion and responsibility.
Harmony Holiday, The Negro Baseball League (Fence, 2011), 86 pp.—In some of her novels (e.g., Song of Solomon or Paradise), Toni Morrison reconstructs the infra- and super-structures of urban Negro culture after Reconstruction and during Civil Rights legislated integration. The failures of voluntary separatism-cum-Jim Crow segregation which, for Morrison, trump their successes (social and cultural, if not economic or political, independence), are largely, if not exclusively, gender-inflected. Specifically, one can read Morrison’s entire corpus, up to and including A Mercy and Home, as responding to the revamping of masculine, proto-patriarchal tendencies during the dream of black cultural nationalism. So what to make of Harmony Holiday’s dream encapsulated in The Negro Baseball League, a collection of free form (as in free jazz) poems that paint a somber vision of cultural separatism?
Joel Felix, Limbs of the Apple Tree Never Die (Verge Books, 2013), 90 pp. $15.00—Imagine that Russell Atkins had a child with Charles Olson, midwifed by Laura Riding. That might be Joel Felix. His first book is a moving meditation on the impossibility and necessity of poetry, on history as “enslavement without end,” and the possibility, however unlikely, that there remains, its brutalities notwithstanding, a truth-telling residue in language.
Mendi and Keith Obadike, Four Electric Ghosts (1913 Press, 2009, 2011), 189 pp.; Big House/ Disclosure (1913 Press, 2014), 102 pp.—Despite the first, rather interesting, thirty-four pages of storytelling, Four Electric Ghosts is essentially a catalog of what appears to be an Afro-Futurist-inspired opera, at least in terms of its setting and design (disclosure: I’ve not had the opportunity to see any of the Obadikes' theatrical productions).
Stephen Collis and Jordan Scott, Decomp (Coach House Books, 2013), 135 pp. $24.95 CAN, $22.00 USA—Full disclosure: I am quoted toward the end of this book and cited in the notes. The introduction by Jonathan Skinner sets up one of the central issues addressed in this collection of poems, prose and photographs: “How did we get from some bodies to somebody? Decomp takes the text best known for exploring this question, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and subjects it to an experiment to find out how we get from somebody back to some bodies.” The experiment was ostensibly simple: Collis and Scott placed five copies of Species in five distinct ecosystems in British Columbia and left them there for a year before returning to document — via photographs and their own ruminations — what remains.