Suddenly we

Evie Shockley, 1965-

Book - 2023

"Shockley repurposes literary and musical modes from across centuries of African American and diasporic traditions. Given the choice between formal flawlessness and page-spanning sprawls, between autobiographical revelation and collective outcry, she welcomes the self-contradictions of being all the above."--

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Middletown, Connecticut : Wesleyan University Press [2023]
Main Author
Evie Shockley, 1965- (author)
Physical Description
106 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
  • Alma's arlkestral vision (or, farther out)
  • We:: becoming & going
  • Perched
  • No car for colored [+] ladies (or, miss wells goes off [on] the rails)
  • The blessings
  • The beauties: third dimension
  • Blues-elegy for cheryl
  • (In)site unseen
  • Sol(ace) song
  • The lost track of time
  • We:: uppity & down
  • Women's voting rights at one hundred (but who's counting?)
  • Nature studies
  • Fruitful
  • Dive in
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • In this light
  • "The musician stands out" (or, le musée de l'orangerie curates a history lesson)
  • Breonna taylor's final rest (or, the furies are still activists)
  • Color bleeding
  • Destin(ed)ation
  • Migratory patterns: birds of paradise
  • We:: indurate & out
  • Virtually free
  • Fire works
  • Can't unsee
  • An inoculation against innocence
  • One foot out of the panorama
  • Umbra's ell
  • In relation: a semi-cento with, for, and about john keene (et al.)
  • Jury duty
  • Prefixed
  • Holla
  • Anti-immigration
  • Ex patria
  • We:: adhere & there
  • The center of a tension
  • Direct to your table
  • We'd like to propose---
  • Brava gente
  • Pantoum: 2020
  • Sonnet for the long second act
  • Facing south
  • Les milles.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This verbally and visually stirring outing from Shockley (Semiautomatic) offers a rewarding mix of short and long poems, elegies and odes, images, repetitions, and "conversations" with writers and artists. The expansive "we" in this collection is paramount, encompassing a mighty chorus of "I"s. Shockley's poems are risk-taking and significant as they explore how society's expectations and suppositions cage individuals into categories that squash individual narratives: "a woman is innocent until proven/ angry. a man is innocent until/ he fits the profile. a child is/ innocent until she sees her mother/ or father in cuffs. can't unsee." Within Shockley's investigation is a lush desire for intimacy and connection--that "we" that is so critical, especially today: "the question is: who was i when we last hugged so close our bones met? where are the coffee spoons of yesteryear? i've measured out my life in package deliveries and what's in bloom... if you can locate my whenabouts on a calendar, come get me. i don't know where i'm going, but i need a ride." This collection is a welcome companion for that ride as it celebrates the collective, the "we" that is vital to survival. (Mar.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

"we are the sailors/ we are the ships/ we are the stars/ we are the night": so declares Pulitzer Prize finalist Shockley (semiautomatic) as she embarks on a journey to discover who we might become to ourselves, to others, together. There's a contained majesty to this work, a grandeur to the perfectly pared lines, as Shockley steers us through the shimmering spaces of the first section toward a u-shaped figure made of we's pointedly disclosing the words unique and universe, crucial polarities uniting to form a whole. The second section, "we: becoming & going," opens with "perched," a poem expressing exactly the sense of anticipation brimming throughout; the speaker, like a tree, is "alive with change." But as the section's subsequent portraits show, becoming fully alive is not always easy, particularly for Black women--Mammy "served as a container for others' woe"--and the section concludes with a sense of lost time, detour, roads blocked. Starting with "/ a flock of votes, a pride of votes, a murder of votes/ can really make a difference," the volume's increasingly expansive poems move forward to a greater sense of community, to the need for a "suddenly we." VERDICT Another accomplished work from Shockley; highly recommended.--Barbara Hoffert

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