“I refuse to believe that we are going to let ourselves be manipulated into oblivion by some of the most illiterate people in the history of the world!”

— James Baldwin

The first day of school is precious. If you are a parent, you plan for it, buy school supplies, new clothes, and sneakers, and maybe, if it’s still warm and not raining, you walk to school holding your child’s hand. Before the pandemic would alter all of our lives, I stood on the playground waiting for my child’s teacher to show up, and I saw a man wearing a…

Tin House, $15.95 https://tinhouse.com/product/magical-negro/

by Stephanie Tobia

Morgan Parker’s Magical Negro wields every day language to capture a range of human emotion. The three-part collection plays on the cinematic term “magical negro” which is the use of a black character with mystical powers who aids a white protagonist. Seven of the collection’s poems are titled “Magical Negro #” as an important reminder of the various “magical negroes” utilized by white culture: Denzel Washington, Diana Ross, Jesus Christ, Gladys Knight and a myriad of others. Her use of varying line length and lowercase punctuation reads as a nod to lucille clifton.

The speaker in these…

Augury Books, $18 https://augurybooks.com/more-black-by-tai-freedom-ford/

by Darla Himeles

Which way’s up? Which way’s down? t’ai freedom ford’s new collection, & more black, invites readers to spin its body in both hands, cradling the spine, opening and reopening, trying to make heads or tails of how to navigate its design: two roughly equal-sized sections of sonnets that are oriented between two front covers, suggesting two books within a book. …

Finishing Line Press, $14.99 https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/capricornucopia-the-dream-of-the-goats-by-paula-neves/

by Allison Bird Treacy

In the history of feminism, the kitchen is a sacred space. Indeed, as Barbara Smith once said, “the kitchen is the center of the home, the place where women in particular work and communicate with each other,” and in paulA neves’ 2018 chapbook capricornucopia (dream of the goats), the kitchen takes center stage from the very first poem, “Graciete.” Writing through the memory of the family kitchen as she does many times in the collection, neves’ spacious lines breathe out –

I will listen to her
just once more

while she cradles the blade
in one…

Birds, LLC, $16 http://www.birdsllc.com/catalog/red

by Allison Bird Treacy

Erasure poetry, fundamentally an act of appropriation and reinvention, has been around a long time, but in 2017 it caught the attention of the New Republic. Since Trump’s election, reporter Rachel Stone noted, erasure poetry seemed to be undergoing a renaissance, specifically as a mode of commentary on Trump’s own pronouncements. In addressing this revival, though, Stone also observes the limits of erasure — the scope is restricted by the source, leading to the follow-up question, can erasure ever create something new? In the introduction to their 2018 collectoin R E D (Birds, LLC.), …

Robles-Alvarado, $26.00 https://www.amazon.com/Abuela-Stories-Project-Peggy-Robles-Alvarado/dp/0983277729

by Dimitri Reyes

The Abuela Stories Project, put together by writer/ educator Peggy Robles-Alvarado and Bronx artist Daisy Arroyo, is an amazing collection of words and images highlighting the iconic spirit of the Grandmother. Among the themed anthologies I’ve read, none has had a group of writers speak with such a collective voice. This comes from the fact that all the stories and poems are snapshots attempting to deliver a 360 degree view of the grandmother where she becomes a source of energy rather than memory. Moreover, Robles- Alvarado’s magic-making extends itself way into the editing of this all-female anthology…

Prelude Books, $15.95 https://preludebooks.com/jason-koo/

By Allison Bird Treacy

Just weeks before John Ashbery’s death last fall; I took the holy journey from New York City to Hudson, NY where the ninety-year-old poet made his home. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was stepping directly into the poetic lineage recounted in Brooklyn Poets founder Jason Koo’s third full-length collection More Than Mere Light (Prelude, 2018). …

2Leaf Press, $16.95

by Dimitri Reyes

Like the poets of the Beats and Black Arts movements, the Nuyorican Movement of the 60’s and 70’s also played a large part in what takes shape as the cultural and intellectual reinvention of poetics as well as what constitutes as the performance canon for our current stage and page poets. Arguably, poetry in its nature has always been a political mechanism of feeling and the exploration of self-worth and continues to expand that definition of nature and worthiness into an art that is continuously transforming itself; especially within the past 60 years. But why is it…

by Dimitri Reyes

Jesus Papoleto Melendez (photo courtesy of the Poetry Foundation)

Thinking of your poems “Subway Sleeper Car Sleeper” or “The Flood Came to Puerto Rico,” how do you think that writing politically driven poems help change the political climate in a time where social media has American dialogue moving so quickly?

Well, first of all, people need to slow down. Just because one is dealing with intellectual technology doesn’t necessarily mean that one is keeping up with it intellectually. I feel that people need to read more, than speak poetry. I am always dismayed when there is a conversation about poetics, et al, and many folk are…

Platypus Press, 2018, $16.00

By Anu Mahadev

In this current political climate voices are begging to be heard, to be validated and acknowledged. To that effect, “A Portrait in Blue” is a brave, fearless collection — these are pearls strung in variegated colors and shapes that have no intention of hiding themselves. This book is an in-your-face display of “identity, gender and bodies” — bodies wrought with expression, some celebratory, some violent, but in the end, all very human and real.

There is birth in “Beginning” where Jonathan Bay compares his “toes counted ten times over” like “the first clover ever found”, there is…

Roberto Carlos Garcia

Roberto writes extensively about the Afro-Latinx & Afro-Diasporic experience. His essays have appeared in The Root, Seven Scribes, Those People, and elsewhere.

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