Shane McCrae’s, winner of this year’s Anisfield-Wolf’s award for poetry, is the kind of poetry book that I like because it is not a collection of poems, but a unified poetry book. All three sections speak to a different kind of captivity. The most intriguing one is “Jim Limber, the adopted mulatto son of Jefferson Davis.” (These poems make me wonder whether Charles Frazier’s new book, Varina, which focuses on Jefferson Davis’ wife, would be an interesting complement to this book.) McCrae’s most inviting techniques are his use of line breaks and caesuras. It makes me wish I could hear him read his work out loud.
Since it is such a unified collection, it’s hard to extract favorite poems since to do so would be to pull them out of context, but “Jefferson Davis the Adoptive Father of the Mulatto Jim Limber Drams the Freedom of the Negro Will One Day be His Freedom,” “Sunlight,” and “Still When I Picture It the Face of God Is a White Man’s Face” all jumped out at me.
The cover for the book is perfect; I wish I could figure out who created it.
Even McCrae’s dedication – “For my families” – is intriguing. I very much look forward to hearing from him in September.