Angela Jackson returns with a poetic collage that draws on imagery from the African American South and the South Side of Chicago, storytelling, the Black Arts Movement, and Hausa folklore. Deftly intertwining narrative and free verse, she expresses the complexities, beauty, and haunts of the multilayered Black voice. Jackson offers a stirring mixture of the music, food, and soul that have come to characterize her lyrical work.
The speakers of these poems reflect on memory and saga, history and legend. Voices recall evenings spent catching fireflies with a younger sister, the aroma of homemade rolls, the father who squeezes papers into his wallet alongside bills in order to appear wealthy (“a flock of green birds rustling inside / to get out for some extravagance”). A Black girl watches TV and dreams of the perfect partner. A citizen contends with the unrelenting devastation of police violence in a work reminiscent of Gwendolyn Brooks’s “verse journalism.” A mother loses her daughter only to witness her rebirth: “Praise be / the human being / that is being.”
In “For Our People,” an homage to Margaret Walker, Jackson summons the resilience and imagination of African Americans, celebrating “each of us injured or exalted, betrayer or betrayed, muted / and declamatory, all one, each of us all of us, each a private star beloved in the universe.” Lauded as one of American poetry’s most vivid voices, Jackson continues her reign among the country’s foremost wordsmiths. This sublime collection delves deep into the porch stories and folktales that have carried the Black voice through all its histories.