Poetry. Paper, Perfect Bound. 64 pages
2019, ISBN: 978-1-936419-89-0
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In One Less River, Terry Blackhawk follows Hafiz’s injunction to ‘Greet yourself/In your thousand other forms/As you mount the hidden tide and travel/Home.’ Hafiz, through this epigraph, serves her well, as do Dickinson and Whitman who inspire, or are sampled in, many of the poems. In the search for home, the poems take on a wide variety of poetic forms as they journey through alternate selves, shape-shifting, crossing boundaries, inhabiting myriad beings. Hermit crabs, mussels, jellyfish, whales, octopi, and all manner of birds populate these poems. While steeped in nature, the poems also nod to city skylines and are never far from an awareness of inhumanity’s toll.
The book covers a lot of ground and deepens on second and third readings. Set on beaches, shores, or along the Detroit River and on the city’s Belle Isle—an urban retreat that provided Blackhawk with inspiration during the ten years she lived nearby in Detroit’s Lafayette Park—the poems follow the author’s “hidden tide” to Venice, Provincetown, Costa Rica, and elsewhere. One door opens the manuscript; another ends it. While borrowing throughout from Whitman, Blackhawk ultimately does not “cross Brooklyn Ferry” but stands firm in her present being, looking across the water into the city of her past. The door in the final line of the collection leads us back to Dickinson whose room, with its light and simplicity, invites us in.
Blackhawk coined the name Protea at the Fine Arts Work Center while composing “Provincetown, August” and only afterward learned that Proteus was a pre-Athenian god of the sea. She wrote toward the figure of Protea as a 2013 Kresge Arts in Detroit literary fellow. The poems, which comprise section ii of One Less River, culminated in “Protea Currency,” a multi-media collaboration with Detroit artists performed at Wayne State’s Studio Theater in April 2015 for Kresge’s biennial ArtX Festival. The hour-long presentation included videos and musical settings of the poems, with soprano and a trio (which afterward took the name Protea) of clarinet, flute, and piano. Links to a video “Overheard among the Arthropods” and recordings of “Provincetown, August” and “Protea, in Venice” (from the CD “Poet as Muse”) from the production can be found on the author’s website www.terrymblackhawk.com.
Praise for Terry Blackhawk’s work:
With Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson as companion compass points, Terry Blackhawk crosses again and again that boundary between self and the world in sharp, angular sensual lyrics that spread as she writes in one poem like “haloes upward in luminous / turquoise rings.” What she finds in One Less River is kinship with all manner of creatures and alternate selves connected to water. In one poem, an array of thriving arthropods; later, a dying Ivory Gull under a bridge over the Flint River. And friends—a wary friend, friend gone missing, friend who has crossed over. In this elastic world Blackhawk seeks and dissolves like the wafer in one poem until she finds that infinite space Dickinson called “noon.” A palindrome. Infinity on its side. A place of no shadows except those cast by these richly imagined poems. – Dennis Hinrichsen
Rivers run through Terry Blackhawk’s new collection: the Detroit River with its extinct fresh water mussels, their lovely, evocative names juxtaposed against what remains— “the rusted manhole cover and the chipping paint;” the Tallahatchie, which inspires a tender, moving reference to the memory of Emmett Till. In “Nauset,” as if following the course of a river, a woman returns to the sea to build a shelter among the dunes, living alone with the elements until she hears the waves “sing to her” and is restored. Deep under the currents of One Less River is an unspecified story of loss and recovery, of grief and the many meandering paths away from grief. This is a luminous and rewarding book. – Patricia Hooper
Here come Terry Blackhawk’s wonderful poems, naming things with tender precision, imagination, humor, and an astute suspicion of what lies behind the come-on (erotic or evangelical). As the poems walk along the water, the sea, the river, the strait, with Whitman and Dickinson and all the creatures of the water and the air for company&emdash;not ignoring the children sickened by some of those waters&emdash;Blackhawk is a pilgrim continually seeking some cloister, “an opening to duck into,” a shack in the dunes, a shell emptied of some other, the body with its eyes closed in death, where the mind and heart might rest in love. To paraphrase Elizabeth Bishop, this book penetrates into a depth of knowledge that is dark, salt, clear, moving, and utterly free. — Patrick Donnelly, author of Little-Known Operas, Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin, and The Charge.
She Awakens in a Town by the Sea
The street, milling all night. Old lace —
faces peeking out into drifts of blossoms,
drifts of bloom. Tell me about yourself, Sweetie.
Everything you say may be held against you.
Drifts of blossoms, studies of bloom.
Or boas. Boas and other entanglements.
The auditions go on regardless.
Mammatus, Mami Wata — clouds
begin to break. When she steps outside,
a soprano’s song saturates the air.
Shards of shells on the walk beneath her
feet. Gardens tuning up in a minor
key. Before their petals fall away, she will lift
a shattered glass.
A gull coasts over the jetty. Drifts
of blossoms, curtains of bloom.
About Terry Blackhawk
Terry Blackhawk is the author of three chapbooks and four full-length poetry collections, including Escape Artist, winner of the John Ciardi Prize. Her awards include a Kresge Arts in Detroit Literary Fellowship, the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Michigan Council for the Arts. She has poems in many journals and anthologies and on line at Rattle, The Collagist, Solstice, Verse Daily and elsewhere. She can be found at www.terrymblackhawk.com.