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Feministing gives THE BLACK MARIA rave review

Aracelis Girmay's the black maria shines in the spotlight once again with another remarkable review, this time from reviewer Sam Huber of Feministing.

The review notes the "inexhaustible wonder of language" and Girmay's "brilliant inversion of the overly familiar aspiration to write verse that outlives its author." Huber describes how Girmay has written her speakers to pass words back and forth, trading them like "special things," and notes that "language is a tent they pitch and huddle under, respecting the integrity of the words each brings even while exchanging them freely."

According to the review, "the black maria consists of two ambitious poem cycles, each of which is complex and expansive enough to have stood alone as its own volume." In the collection's first sequence, "elelegy," Girmay spans "Eritrean history, often lingering over the bodies of water that link the country to its European and American diasporas . . . The book’s second sequence, which gives the volume its title, performs its own kind of grief work." Girmay uses her voice to dedicate poems in this second sequence to people such as Jonathan Ferrell, killed by a white police officer while seeking help after a car accident, and Renisha McBride, who was killed by a white homeowner after knocking on his door.

Huber says, "If language in 'elelegy' can be a gift, a tent, a hinge, in 'the black maria' it risks violence . . . As Claudia Rankine does in her universally acclaimed 2014 volume Citizen, Girmay implicates the reader in this work and its hazards: in a poem dedicated to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson that imagines a white neighbor confusing a black child’s telescope for a gun, Girmay writes, 'depending on who you are, reading this, / you know that the boy is in grave danger […] you might have worried for him / in the white space between lines 5 & 6.'"

The review concludes, "In this poem and so many others, Girmay’s vision stretches just as far, even as—perhaps especially when—she insists on charting its constraints: 'The poem dreams of bodies always leadless, bearing / only things ordinary / as water & light.' Leadless meaning weightless, but also, in America, when those bodies are black, leadless meaning not gunned down. And these poems do float, buoyed by glistening language; many even make room for joy. A poet can dream."

Click here to read the full Feministing review.

Girmay's the black maria is available now at the BOA Bookstore.

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