Recipient, 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship
With her strong voice and precise language, Meena Alexander has crafted this visceral, worldly collection of poems. The experience she brings to the reader is sensual in many senses of the word, as she invokes bright colors, sounds, smells, and feelings. Her use of vivid imagery from the natural world—birds, lilies, horses—up against that from the world of humans—oppression, slavery, and violence—ties her work to the earth even as she works a few mystical poetic transformations.
In Alexander’s world, the songs of a bird can become the voice of a girl in a café and the red juice of mulberries can be as shocking as blood. When she focuses her attention on the cloth of a girl’s sari, the material of a woman’s life, or the blood in her veins, she speaks to the particular experience of women in the world. The women are vividly present—sometimes they are hidden or veiled, juxtaposed with open gardens in full bloom. It is difficult not to come away from Quickly Changing River without a new sense of the power and frailty of being alive.