Ploughshares just published a stunning new review of Aracelis Girmay's the black maria for its series on "books of poetry that imagine humans’ impact on a geologic scale."
According to reviewer Rachel Edelman, the black maria is an "intricate epic of black survival" that "enraptures the reader in a gaze that looks simultaneously backward and forward, toward past and future that are impossible to see yet crucial to imagine.
"The poems in 'elelegy' construct a collectively-focused history of the black body’s movement across the planet, while those in 'the black maria' account daily tragedies and joys of black American survival. Through radical divergences between time scales and speakers, the black maria fashions a radically inclusive black Anthropocene."
The review moves through various poems of the book, noting Girmay's nods toward Eritrean history, "the history of those who lost or were forced to leave home," a "narrative clarity within which the lyric sings," and the homage the poet pays "to those lost to anti-black violence."
The review concludes, "[The names of the lost] accumulate on the present’s thin page, asking the reader to carry their 'estrangements' into this diasporic Anthropocene. As she calls these lost ones to mind, Girmay stands on the molten heat of history conjuring a future for the 'splayed & sighing' child."
In a recent BuzzFeed essay by Rahawa Haile, the author shares her moving story about hiking the Appalachian Trail with "exceptional" books by black authors, including Aracelis Girmay's the black maria.
"Everyone had something out here. The love I carried was books. Exceptional books. Books by black authors, their photos often the only black faces I would talk to for weeks. These were writers who had endured more than I’d ever been asked to, whose strength gave me strength in turn. I wanted to show them beauty from heights that a history of terror had made clear were never intended to be theirs."
Click here read the full Ploughshares review of the black maria.
Click here to read the full BuzzFeed essay, "How Black Books Lit My Way Along The Appalachian Trail."
For more information on the black maria, visit the BOA Bookstore.