Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The summer poetry retreat/workshop for African-Americans known as Cave Canem (beware of the dog) has just released its 10th year anniversary anthology entitled 'Gathering Ground'. I got my contributor's copy a week ago and eagerly opened it. I was expecting it to be pretty good given the pool of poets from whom the work was drawn, but it turned out to be even better than I expected. Among the poems that I thought were real gems were 'Stewards' by Nikki Finney, 'Haint' by Teri Cross, 'Carapace' by her husband Hayes Davis, 'The Street of Look Behind' by Erica Doyle, 'Dreadlocks' by Toni Brown, 'Kind of Blue' by A Van Jordan, Christ and Magdalene' by Raina Leon, 'One More Silver Dollar' by Ernesto Mercer, and 'A Quiet Rhythm of Sleep' by Lenard Moore. But the most surprising thing to me was how little distance there was between the best poems and the weakest. The overall level of skill on display is incredible. Part of this is due to the fact that each poet has only one poem and part of it is due to the sharpness of the editor's eyes. Even if you don't read or like much poetry i would recommend this book. One of my biggest gripes about 'Academic Poetry' is that the overwhelming majority of it is boring as hell to the average intelligent reader (read-finely wrought, expertly described moments of no interest whatsoever). this anthology does not however suffer from that particular malady, most of the poems here will reward a reader richly, and a re-reader even more abundantly. Stylistically, the pallette is broad, incorporating Free Verse, Forms and self-styled Experimental Poetries. Aquire and Feast.