American Sublime

( 1 )


A brilliant new collection by Elizabeth Alexander, whose "poems bristle with the irresistible quality of a world seen fresh" (Rita Dove, The Washington Post)

Too many people have seen too much

and lived to tell, or not tell, or tell

with their silent, patterned bodies,

their glass eyes, gone legs, flower-printed flesh . . .

-from "Notes ...

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A brilliant new collection by Elizabeth Alexander, whose "poems bristle with the irresistible quality of a world seen fresh" (Rita Dove, The Washington Post)

Too many people have seen too much

and lived to tell, or not tell, or tell

with their silent, patterned bodies,

their glass eyes, gone legs, flower-printed flesh . . .

-from "Notes From"

In her fourth remarkable collection, Elizabeth Alexander voices the outcries, dreams, and histories of an African American tradition that goes back to the slave rebellion on the Amistad and to the artists' canvases of nineteenth-century America. In persona poems, historical narratives, jazz riffs, sonnets, elegies, and a sequence of ars poetica, American Sublime is Alexander's most vivid and varied collection and affirms her place as one of America's most lively and gifted writers.

"Alexander is an unusual thing, a sensualist of history, a romanticist of race. She weaves biography, history, experience, pop culture and dream. Her poems make the public and private dance together." --Chicago Tribune

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Barbecues, midwives, "Soyinka and Senghor," "Etheridge Knight, from prison," grandparents, students, "not Congo but Zaire," mom, "aggressive magic," jail, "my book," "children, fathers, brothers"-in this kaleidoscopic fourth collection, Alexander traces shifting global histories, family alliances, ways of working and being trapped, and means of escape in four broad parts. The first, "American Blue," takes in the U.S.'s post-`60s history alongside Alexander's child-, student- and adult-hood (with stops at Ellington/Strayhorn's '40s, Monk's '50s and a dream of Krishna along the way). A selection from a larger series titled "Ars Poetica" covers the ways poetry confronts history: " `Poetry,' I shouted, `Poetry,'/ I screamed, `Poetry,/ changes none of that/ by what it says/ or how it says, none./ But a poem is a living thing/ ... and as life/ it is all that can stand/ up to violence.' " "Amistad," the third section, channels the black Atlantic convincingly, while the last section, "American Sublime," consists of just two short lyrics; the latter ends "light that carries/ possibility, illuminates,// but can promise nothing but itself." This collection makes similarly restrained promises and delivers lucidly. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974329
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 589,502
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.03 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander is the author of three other poetry collections, most recently Antebellum Dream Book, as well as a collection of essays, The Black Interior.

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Table of Contents

Emancipation 3
Little slave narrative #1 : master 4
Ellipsis 5
Smile 7
Kitchen portrait, 1971 8
Tina Green 9
When 10
Five elegies 11
Morning, Gordontown 14
Claustrous Euphobia 15
The end 16
Matrimonio 17
Krishna denies eating mud 20
Ode 21
Stray 22
Fried apples 23
The dream that I told my mother-in-law 24
Black poets talk about the dead 26
Notes from 27
The African picnic 29
First word of the mass for the dead 31
Autumn passage 32
Ars Poetica #10 : crossing over 35
Ars Poetica #1,002 : rally 36
Ars Poetica #17 : first Afro-American esperantist 39
Ars Poetica #28 : African leave-taking disorder 40
Ars Poetica #3 : ablutions 41
Ars Poetica #85 : Modjadji V the rain queen dies in South Africa at 64 42
Ars Poetica #23 : "whassup G?" 43
Ars Poetica #21 : graduate study of literature 44
Ars Poetica #227 : provenance 45
Ars Poetica #92 : Marcus Garvey on elocution 47
Ars Poetica #56 : "bullfrogs was falling out of the sky" 49
Ars Poetica #16 : lot 50
Ars Poetica #13 : the idea of ancestry 51
Ars Poetica #2 : christening 52
Ars Poetica #336 : rose-colored glasses 53
Ars Poetica #66 : how to 54
Ars Poetica #37 : patriarchy 55
Ars Poetica #100 : I believe 56
Ars Poetica #88 : sublime 57
Amistad 61
The blue whale 62
Absence 63
Boy haiku 64
Poro Society 65
Approach 66
Connecticut 67
Other cargo 68
Education 69
The Yale men 71
Teacher 72
Translator 73
Physiognomy 74
Constitutional 76
Mende vocabulary 77
The girls 78
Kere's song 79
Judge Judson 80
In cursive 81
God 82
Waiting for Cinque to speak 83
The Amistad trail 84
Cinque Redux 85
The last quatrain 86
American sublime 89
Tanner's Annunciation 90
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