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Wednesday April 16, 2014
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Poet Raymond McDaniel

 

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are collected in sonorous clusters that are more important than the lines or stanzas or even the narrative sense that would try to contain them: "Mosquito netting's opera lace for godly, for godlets. masquerade mechanical."

This technique is an almost perfect way to capture the languid, tropical atmosphere of the Gulf Coast, McDaniel's home ground and the setting for his most recent collection, Saltwater Empire. I'm guessing that this book started as an effort to recapture some of the characters and the language of New Orleans and other parts of the gulf. McDaniel would look at the picture clearly, recognizing the full range of the history, allowing anger even as his clear affection for it all often created the undercurrent of the poems. But then something happened. Hurricane Katrina hit, and in its aftermath the country abandoned many of its citizens. What may have been seen as McDaniel's understandable nostalgia was replaced by rage. The Saltwater Empire has changed forever.

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