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Reverie – 2010

A special tribute issue of this journal of Midwestern African American Literature is devoted to Allison Joseph, Aquarius Press Legacy Award Recipient, five of whose poems appear here. The cover is an evocative portrait, “Mattress Man,” by accomplished photographer and fast-becoming ubiquitous poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, whose poem, “Absolute Otherwhere,” appears in the issue. Sayers Ellis has an eye for desolate views and an ear for inventive diction: “We know there’s a recognizable We, / an I-identifiable many.”

A special tribute issue of this journal of Midwestern African American Literature is devoted to Allison Joseph, Aquarius Press Legacy Award Recipient, five of whose poems appear here. The cover is an evocative portrait, “Mattress Man,” by accomplished photographer and fast-becoming ubiquitous poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, whose poem, “Absolute Otherwhere,” appears in the issue. Sayers Ellis has an eye for desolate views and an ear for inventive diction: “We know there’s a recognizable We, / an I-identifiable many.”

Legacy Award honoree Joseph, who directs the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University and serves as Poetry Editor for Crab Orchard Review, has published six books of poetry and a chapbook. The Legacy Award honors “a distinguished woman writer of color from the American Midwest actively involved in providing opportunities for other writers.” She writes in “Stand Up,”

To be human is to be noisy
wave a finger
or a fist, lifting up and out of your seat
when the whole swath of humanity
would prefer you sit down

Isn’t this truly the work of poetry, to make us stand up when everything tells us to sit down (and shut up)!

The issue also includes a conversation between poet Curtis L. Crisler and Joseph; a conversation between scholar and critic Dikè Okoro and poet Sterling Plumpp; an interview by John Murillo with poet Mitchell H.L. Douglas; and prose and poetry by another four-dozen writers. I liked, in particular, poems by Stacia Brown, “Combat” (“i felt your face, disfigured, / kissed the pleats of keloid, / puckering your jaws, you / were cold, flushed with / camphor and distance”); Carolyn Rodgers, “Cubistic Body World” (“behold. the body of the world. / it appears that / no one will have / the distinct / odious honor of dismantling / of killing it. // it is tearing / its own self / apart”); and Anastacia Tolbert, “altar call girls who listen to the radio” (“little midnight black / powerful lipped / dna coiled tea cup / pour yourself a blessing”).

DaMaris Hill contributes fantastic poems based on the book Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910; Ebony Golden adds to the issue’s satisfaction with “speak/easy,” difficult to render accurately here because of the importance of spacing on the page (how the words move and breathe), but compelling on many levels (“you know a horn reaches beyond the body around the ache through the secret”); Rochelle Spencer’s story “Cold, Dark Matters” is smartly composed and wonderfully readable; and a short-short by Julie Iromuanya, “My Brother Told Me,” straddles the fine line between fiction and nonfiction (there is no genre classification) that makes me appreciate the narrative potential of both all the more.

My favorite aspect of Reverie is the reverie of titles: “Somethings” (D. Anderson); “Ode to Harold’s Chicken” (Kelly Norman Ellis); “Girlfriend, there is no spoon” (Amanda Johnston); and “The Anti-Dead Homie T-Shirt Manifesto” (Mitchell L. H. Douglas, also interviewed this issue).

“We cannot predict the outcome / Of our lives, imagine it / In one color,” writes Raymond Berry in “Black Stars.” Reverie is anything but monochrome.
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