Review: Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin & Marissa Alexander

By Daniel Shank Cruz

StandOurGroundFrontCover-660x1024As its subtitle indicates, Ewuare X. Osayande’s anthology Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin & Marissa Alexander attempts to make space for poetry within the fractious public discourse surrounding two recent examples of race-related legal injustice. Osayande explicitly ties the book to the Black Arts Movement tradition of poetry-as-social activism, writing in the introduction that Stand Our Ground “exhorts us not only to face our reality, but to act” and explaining that it contains “Poems that revolt and rebel / that holler, scream and yell” (15, 18). Read More

Review: Somewhere Near Defiance by Jeff Gundy

By Daniel Shank Cruz

somewhereneardefianceIn Somewhere Near Defiance, his sixth full-length collection of poems, Jeff Gundy is at the top of his game. The book revisits Gundy’s usual catalog of subjects — small-town life in the Midwest, nature, Mennonites, being on the road, and so on — but these themes remain fresh under his deft touch. Like two of his poetic influences, William Blake and Walt Whitman (who each appear in several poems), Gundy is a poet of the people in that his poems examine everyday life in a way that elevates it to the sublime. One of the book’s early poems, “Having It All Four Ways,” is written as a catechism, inspiring the desire to read it reverently, as one would whisper a prayer during morning devotions, but focuses on the holiness of fleshly being: “[s]weat, chocolate, lust, and fire” (23). The parallel emphasis on the earthly and the divine is present throughout this collection as an argument that the two are much more closely related than is often assumed. Read More