From the poet whose stunning debut was praised as "transcendent" (Kevin Young) and "steadily confident" (Carl Phillips), Dangerous Goods tracks its speaker throughout North America and abroad, illuminating the ways in which home and place may inhabit one another comfortably or uncomfortably—or both simultaneously. From the Bahamas, London, and Liberia, to Bemidji, Minnesota, and Milledgeville, Georgia, Sean Hill interweaves the contemporary with the historical, and explores with urgency the relationship between travel, migration, alienation, and home. Here, playful "postcard" poems addressed to Nostalgia and My Third Crush Today sit alongside powerful reflections on the immigration of African Americans to Liberia during and after the era of slavery. Such range and formal innovation make Hill's second collection both rare and exhilarating. Part shadowbox, part migration map, part travelogue-in-verse, Dangerous Goods is poignant, elegant, and deeply moving.
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Blood Ties & Brown Liquor
Each poem in Hill's debut collection, Blood Ties & Brown Liquor, builds on the poetic landscape created from his hometown, Milledgeville, Georgia, offering a portrait of the town's black community. A multitude of voices rises from the pages to celebrate familial love, memory, and yearning, and to confront racism.
The poems create a call and response across six generations of the family of the fictional character Silas Wright, a black man born in 1907. From a slave woman's scratchy hay-stuffed mattress to a black insurance agent's ominous patter, from sweet honey to the searing heat of brickyard kilns, these poems spread before us a sensuous world of quotidian lives punctuated by love and violence.
Although the white community appears in newspaper snippets and schoolyard taunts, it is relegated to the margins, while the black community's private concerns and shared memories occupy the book's center. This reverse marginalization is a source of creative tension, as is Hill's juxtaposition of formal and free verse, historical and fictional narratives, and poetic lyricism and colloquial diction. A variety of poetic forms share space with the blues and dramatic monologues unspooling down the page in associative leaps.
Reading these poems is like exploring a hall of mirrors in which recurring images, echoing voices, and familiar places reflect and refract one another's light to illuminate our contemporary notions of Southern identity, African-American community and family, and personal and societal interpretations of history.
About the cover art: The scene is from a watercolor painted by the artist Frank Stanley Herring during the 1930s or 1940s. It depicts Milledgeville’s Black business district, McIntosh Street, during that era.
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