The legendary Jack Johnson (1878–1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers—and white America—to become the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka’s third work of poetry, follows the fighter’s journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved. Matejka’s book is part historic reclamation and part interrogation of Johnson’s complicated legacy, one that often misremembers the magnetic man behind the myth.
* An NPR, Slate, Oregonian, Kansas City Star, Willamette Week, and Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year * Amazon's Best Book of the Year in Poetry 2013 *
In Incarnadine, Mary Szybist restlessly seeks out places where meaning might take on new color. One poem is presented as a diagrammed sentence. Another is an abecedarium made of lines of dialogue spoken by girls overheard while assembling a puzzle. Several poems arrive as a series of Annunciations, while others purport to give an update on Mary, who must finish the dishes before she will open herself to God. One poem appears on the page as spokes radiating from a wheel, or as a sunburst, or as the cycle around which all times and all tenses are alive in this moment. Szybist's formal innovations are matched by her musical lines, by her poetry's insistence on singing as a lure toward the unknowable. Inside these poems is a deep yearning—for love, motherhood, the will to see things as they are and to speak. Beautiful and inventive, Incarnadine is the new collection by one of America's most ambitious poets.