Red Hen Roundup: April Poetry Collections
By Lizzy Young
April is National Poetry Month! To celebrate, we are rounding up the wonderful poetry collections that are forthcoming from Red Hen this month! Included in this roundup is a poem from each collection. Keep reading for some lovely poems and to find your next read.
“instead, it is dark”
I woke to the dead
and was among them.
how this happened,
who did this to us
and evidence belies.
ourselves but ourselves.
I’d gone to the corner
when the bakery opened,
to a rare sun, and then suddenly —
though not — I remember
I feel around me now
and everyone’s near
who waited for bread
or God one morning.
it’s true I thought at the last
I heard something but didn’t think
to turn, nor catch sight of,
nor glean time to.
Following her husband’s massive heart attack, Cynthia Hogue began writing poems based on dreams and memories that he, born during WWII in occupied France, had as a child growing up in a time of vast postwar food shortages. Hogue embarked on a quest to discover if there were more such memories in her extended family in France. When asked, family members told her never-before-shared tales of parents who were POWs, collaborators, Resistance fighters, and one most vulnerable — of a hidden child. Hogue spent years researching the lives of civilians during war, work crystallized in her tenth collection of poetry, instead, it is dark. The personal is alchemized as Hogue weaves history and present day in poems that explore how there, here, an individual voice in the stark language of lyric poetry, speaks a complex truth and casts a laser light on violence, resilience, survival, and — the heart of this collection — love.
Cynthia’s collection comes out today! So order your copy at this link now!
“My First Gun”
Not even a week out of prison he sticking
the thing in my face, six inch barrel, twenty-two
or thirty-eight, ages I just might not make.
Minding my business is minding his
in our world, the top of the hill, high point
of the valley, Milton Avenue, our grave.
This is a world folk will name with cameras,
The Corner and later The Wire, sad stories
of children not yet born, our children, cherubs.
A gun changes things, changes your mind,
not even a week out of prison he sticking
the thing in my face, and I count the chambers.
Six chambers, six the sum of two times sacred three,
three the number of parts of God or a liquor bottle,
the cap, the head, the body, a shallow torso to break.
A gun changes things, changes your black mind,
makes you want one to talk back to the one pointing
in your face, but dumb guns don’t talk. They wait.
When they speak, they speak in thunder, the loud
tap on the body to demand that it open itself up,
edges of black skin screaming, falling away.
In A Fire in the Hills, Afaa focuses on one of the central threads in his body of work. His ongoing project of an articulation of self in relation to the external landscape of the community and the world and the writing of spirit through those revelations of sublimation of self gives way here to a material focus. The racial references are explicit as are the complexities of life lived as a Black man born in America in the mid-twentieth century. These are poems emanating from an attempt to follow Daoist philosophy for most of his life. Knowledge of other is in relation to knowledge of self, and self is an illusory continuum, a perspective wherein the poet embodies the transcendent arc of Malcolm X’s life as credo.
Preorder Afaa Weaver’s timely collection at this link.
“Cien nombres para la muerte: La zapatona/The Fleet-Footed Woman”
(after a print by Erik Ricardo de Luna Genel and for Daniel)
Brother, your heart was a speed metal
drummer in a breakaway, jamming
for the finish. They had to trip it, stop
it, start it, shock it ’til it threw you
to your knees. And La Zapatona, sure-footed
in her winged sneakers, tucked phalanges
into fists and bolted, ponytail sailing
in her wake, piano grin full of keys
hammering sweeps. She shot you
that mal de ojo, all black holes, and you
still smell her sweat, her stale breath,
feel its fire in your lungs. I cheated her
three times, you say, now she sprints
inside my chest. Now she’s neck and neck.
Through image-rich poems regarding migration, transcultural identity, loss, connection, dream, and aging — some translingual, some ekphrastic responses to ephemeral and surreal works of art — Brenda Cárdenas’ Trace explores conditions of displacement, liminality, and mutability. These poems transgress illusory borders between lands, languages, humans and the rest of the natural world, waking and dreaming, and the living and the dead as they unearth traces of experience that shape and haunt us, traces we leave behind for others to encounter. Although elegy resurfaces throughout this collection as does a poetics of social consciousness, Cárdenas also embraces moments of levity, story, and an effervescent internal music that balance her steps through fraught yet bewitching terrain.
Preorder her collection here.
Excerpt from “Let’s Get Small”
Another job gone, the song of another
woman all over his lips. Caught, she could taste it.
She screams. He screams. They scream.
They scream. He screams. She screams.
She screams. He screams. Their scream
the same scream they began with, the same
scream they’ll end with. But, really,
it’s older than that, deeper than that, and oh so Black.
The same scream since middle passage,
since Jim Crow,
since Great Migration,
since Civil Rights.
The speaker of Testify returns to divulge his parents’ love story. Set in Anderson, Indiana in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, Trouble Funk exposes ways Black Love is thwarted but never destroyed by racism, classism, and sexism. Eschewing the “lyrical I” in favor of a third person omniscient point of view, this text exhibits how the latter half of the twentieth century rhymes with our current moment when it comes to political division, the hardships that Black folks face, and the rise of toxic right-wing policies. In many ways, Trouble Funk serves as a prequel to Testify in which Douglas Manuel seeks to better understand and love himself, his family, and his country.
Preorder Douglas’s collection at this link.
We hope you enjoyed reading some poems from our wonderful poets whose collections are coming out this month. Order a collection for yourself and one for a friend in celebration of poetry.