Synopses & Reviews
In this debut collection, Voodoo Inverso, Mark Wagenaar composes a startling mystical imagism and sets it to music, using self-portraits to explore differing physical and spiritual landscapes. He uses a variety of personae—a victim of sex trafficking in Amsterdam, a fichera dancer, a portrait haunted by Dante, a carillonneur of starlight, an elephant in pink slippers remembering its beloved—to silhouette the intricacies and frailties of the body and the world. In a series of “gospels” and “histories”—such as the poems “History of Ecstasy” and “Moth Hour Gospel”—he shines a light on the possibilities of transcendence and transfiguration, weaving together memory and loss with desire and hope.
“There is an ardent music behind Mark Wagenaar’s poetry, which feels like the music not just of his writing, but in an unusual way, of his heard thought. I love the surprises of image and experience, of lost and found footing, in this book; its openness, intelligence, and the quiet shine on the back of all the poems.”—Jean Valentine, Felix Pollak Prize judge and National Book Award Winner
"Craig Blais is a tremendous talent. About Crows is a tremendous debut."—Terrance Hayes, Felix Pollak Prize judge and National Book Award winner
"These haunting, elegant poems are painted with smoke and the colors of the evening sky, and I feel as though I'm peering into rather than merely reading them. Each promises that something is about to happen; the tension they create is irresistible, and as I turn the pages, I find myself drumming my fingers in anticipation and thinking, 'More, please—more.'"—David Kirby
“The persons ‘last seen’ in Jacqueline Jones LaMon’s beautifully haunting book include missing children the poet has researched and imagined and a young woman whose apparent leap off the Bay Bridge is at the center of ‘The San Francisco Sonnets.’ These absences, explored through a variety of formal strategies and peripheral perspectives, are echoed in fragments from the life of an elusive ‘you,’ and inform even the momentary joys of the abecedarian ‘Boy Met Girl’ poems. In their powerful tension between absence and presence, between broken narrative and richly detailed lyric, LaMon’s poetic sequences put all our assumptions about stability and permanence into question.”—Martha Collins, author of Blue Front
“At the heart of Jacqueline Jones LaMon’s new collection Last Seen is a haunting series of poems born of the silence tragedy and loss wedges into our lives. With restraint and through a variety of characters, LaMon gives voice to those whose voices have been lost to us, who’ve left behind only questions and vivid empty spaces the way a boy, dragging his foot, leaves a trace to follow, fleeting as a ‘mark in the snow.’”—Natasha Tretheway, author of Native Guard
“The most disturbing poetics of loss is often the most valuable, beautiful, and lethal. Jacqueline Jones LaMon’s Last Seen, winner of the 2011 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, is a deeply crafted sequence of poems about long-missing African American children in the US. LaMon is a master of the persona poem, where the voices of children, parents, abductors, and friends interact as each tale is revealed. Most poems are built in one single, long stanza, which adds to the tension and drama described. The result is a work in which multiple worlds of love and yearning become one large canvas of intimate humanity.”—The Bloomsbury Review
An unsentimental and at times disquieting first collection, the poems of About Crows excavate self, family, race, location, sex, art, and religion to uncover the artifacts of a succession of traumas that the speaker does not always experience firsthand but carries with him to refashion into some new importance. This is a book of half-states, broken affiliations, and dislocation. The speaker leads the reader through the fragments of a flooded town that grows increasingly elusive the more one looks for it; through a succession of Seoul "love motels" that further displace the outsider to unclaimed margins transformed into sites of creative invention; through "galleries" of artwork, where movement, color, and image are renewed through ekphrasis; and through the world of the metatextual long poem "The Cult Poem," where good and bad moral binaries tangle into a rat's nest of our best and worst spiritual ambitions. The poems and sequences of About Crows are marked by their artistic balance of the sublime and the profane, of polyphony, syntactical complexity, clashing images, cagey humor, and unsettling sincerity, all trying desperately to connect.
Inspired by actual case histories of long-term missing African American children, this provocative and heartrending collection of poems evokes the experience of what it means to be among the missing in contemporary America.
About the Author
Mark Wagenaar is the winner of numerous poetry awards, including the Yellowwood Poetry Prize, the Gary Gildner Award, the Matt Clark Poetry Prize, and the Greg Grummer Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in such journals as New England Review, Subtropics, Southern Review, American Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, New Ohio Review, and Antioch Review. He lives in Denton, Texas.
Table of Contents
Polygraph: The Control Questions
Who are you and whom do you love?
Where did you come from / how did you arrive?
How will you begin?
How will you live now?
What is the shape of your body?
Who is responsible for the suffering of your mother?
The Elsewhere Chronicles
Mrs. Minor Gives Directions to Strangers
Two Waffles and a Tall Glass of Milk
The Clairvoyant Channels Clea Hall
Florida Keys Unidentified
Ten Items or Less
The Age-Progression Artist Pencils Thicker Lashes
A Suspect Mother Answers during Polygraph
"Let Me Run Upstairs and Get My Purse . . ."
How the Bryant Boy Will Know
The Facial Reconstructionist Has Cocktails with the Girls
The Network News Director Addresses His Process of Selection
For My Husband: Who Took Our Daughter to the Park So I Could Get Some Rest, Then Fell Asleep and Awakened to an Empty Stroller
Boy Met Girl
At the Carnival, Near Prospect Park
Through a Mutual Friend
At Lance and Carol's Wedding
In July, at Nathan's Clam Bar
On the Tennis Courts
At B. Altman's Department Store
On the Subway
At Rockaway Beach, in Late June
At Claire's Father's Funeral
The San Francisco Sonnets
The Taker Returns from a Ten-Minute Break
San Francisco Bridge Suicide Jumper Considers Relativity
The Missing Girl's Sister
Prom King Goes Stag His Senior Year
The Junior Detective's Wife Speaks Out on the Day of Their Divorce
The Missing Girl's Mother
Priest Refuses Comment on Accident Driver's Acquittal
Olympic Hopeful Assesses Her Victory
The Missing Girl's Cousin
The Present Song of Seagulls on the San Francisco Bay
The Missing Girl's Boyfriend
The Teacher Prepares the Crisis Counseling Team
Couple Tours Alcatraz on Their Silver Anniversary
The Missing Girl's Father
Polygraph: The Guilty Knowledge Test
. . .
What do you remember about the earth?
What are the consequences of silence?
Tell me what you know about dismemberment
Describe a morning you woke without fear
And what would you say if you could?
How will you / have you prepare(d) for your death?