Anagnorisis: Poems
by Kyle Dargan
Northwestern University Press
Paper: 978-0-8101-3784-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-3785-1

Anagnorisis, a concept Aristotle describes in his Poetics, refers to a moment in a play—a tragedy   specifically—when the hero gains recognition of the true nature of his own character, condition, or relationship with an antagonistic entity. Watching—repeatedly, on a digital loop—the rampant state-sponsored murder of African-Americans over the past five years has lead the poet to a recognition that James Baldwin reflected as a prospect over thirty years ago. That being that an African-American, never has been and, in no current lifetime, will likely not be considered an equal citizen of this country with an equal right to life. Instead of responding to that reality with sadness or hurt (or even anger) the poems in the collection book operate in “functional disillusionment”—a vocal, sustained and actively manifested disbelief in the social, economic and legal systems black Americans are subject to.
The poems speak back to America: “we no longer have faith in you and will not until you give us reason.” The poems are not concerned with gratitude. They are not concerned with coddling the sensibilities of the country’s racial, class, sexual majorities. “The white man believes you when you go to him with that old sweet talk, ‘cause you've been sweet-talking him ever since he brought you here,” Malcolm X once said. “Stop sweet-talking him. Tell him how you feel. Tell him what kind of hell you've been catching[.]” Though it may have been perceived as a threat initially, it is more of a crucial communication strategy, for how can a country get better for a people when those people are constantly asked to temper and carefully couch (or silence) their honest laments? The poet recognizes the hell we have been catching. These poems aim to allow readers to know how catching that hell feels.

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