On “Subterranean” by Richard Greenfield and “The Tradition” by Jericho Brown

Like many others enduring this distended moment of political and cultural turmoil, I have wondered and worried about its psychic effects, its wear and tear on our personal and social consciousness. I feel the impulse to delete my social media accounts, or even more desperately, to abscond myself to the forests and mountains and wait it out. I’ve also been peering at how this constant tension is shaping or contorting our poets and poetry. Political engagement is one thing — our protest poems, or poems of witness, or poems asserting a historically repressed voice. But beyond (or in addition to) these expressions is a certain disposition, a weariness or wariness, which I’m keen to understand.

As this era grinds on, the interconnected anxieties over politics, terrorism, institutional violence, race, the environment, the economy, and so on — essentially the amorphous blob of the contemporary in all its self-contained turbulence — increasingly presents a test of our resilience. And it’s the rise of resilience — of bearing, almost bodily, all this uncertainty — that I see in much poetry, as evidenced and exemplified in two recent collections, Richard Greenfield’s Subterranean and Jericho Brown’s The Tradition. . . . 

Read the review at Ron Slate’s On the Seawall.

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