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Poet Raymond McDaniel

 

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The book includes several long poems, all called "Convention Centers of the New World." These poems are built out of other people's words, people who were famously captive in the New Orleans Superdome and whose words are collected in an oral history project called "Alive in Truth." McDaniel puts this simple, powerful language against his own powerful but more elaborate language:

It's just unfair to me. I mean, I have so much unfinished business
in New Orleans, that - will it ever get taken care of?

Will the pieces ever get put together?
Will I be spending the rest of my life living in the past?

You know, what? Where do I go from here?
Where do my children go from here?


This contrast of the documentary language with McDaniel's own hits the readers with a force that is greater than either would have otherwise. And when the two languages are directly combined, as in the poem "Assault to Abjury," McDaniel creates the poems of this historical moment that may indeed become part of the way we remember it: "God help us we tried to stay shattered but we just got better. fled. were harmed, and then we healed."

Raymond McDaniel reads from Saltwater Empire at the Ann Arbor Book Festival street fair on North University on Saturday, May 17.

[Review published May 2008]    (end of article)

 

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