I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood
Booklist Reviews 2018 September #2
*Starred Review* In this blistering, multivalent debut poetry collection, Clark delivers a relentlessly creative examination of black experiences, especially as lived by folks in the South, where the author attended graduate school, and where the myth of a post-racial America thrives due to the antebellum base, the bedrock of Southern amnesia. Employing an abundantly wide range of poetic forms, Clark combines pithy lines, running sentences, odd indentations, and intentional use of white space, often within the same poem. Her speakers describe keloids ("Cain-cursed with magical crust, armored melatonin"), and the skin of the only survivor of the Mount Pelée eruption ("a blistered onyx back, cracked coal, black tephra"), and Clark confronts discomfort with brutal honesty. Of her white husband, a speaker admits: "I'm attracted to things / that once owned me." Elsewhere, unexpected combinations generate beautiful imagery: "the forgotten phonics of blood," "the bluing drag of dawn," "a cluster of fluffy chromosomes." The list goes on. It's in this boundless imagination and versatility that Clark earns a place among the pantheon of such emerging black poets as Eve Ewing, Nicole Sealey, and Airea D. Matthews. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2018 September #2
"For me, trees will never be just trees. They will also and always be a row of gallows from which Black bodies once swung." Thus does Clark explain the title of her Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize winner, which viscerally imparts the trauma visited on the African American body—and therefore the African American soul. "I carry so many black souls/ in my skin," she says in one poem prompted by her white mother-in-law's wish for the family to be photographed at Carnton Plantation. The plea, "