Columbine and Oklahoma City are among the subjects in Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence in America, but so are smaller-scale encounters with violence. In "Lithium," Marcus Carfagna's narrator describes visiting his bank-robbing brother in jail: "I ask him how he could do something that stupid He confesses through the food slot that he wanted some fast cash to fix the crushed white door of his Dodge Dart so his date wouldn't have to squeeze behind the wheel and scootch herself across the seat." Editors Virgil Suarez and Ryan G. Van Cleave, who also co-edited American Diaspora, have gathered works by 120 writers including Maxine Chernoff, Sherman Alexie and Campbell McGrath. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Conceived and edited before September 11, these poems serve as reminders that terrorists are not our only threat. There are responses to high-profile murderers (Simpson, Koresh, et al.), but the collection's strength rests in a subtle joining of internal and external, depicting violence at a level too often ignored. Thus, Peter Johnson's prose poem begins "There's a tattoo of a tiny gun on my hand symbolic of the tiny wars I wage inside myself," and Denise Duhamel describes a child raped near where her sister and nieces live. Wisely, the editors elected not to group the pieces thematically, instead presenting them in alphabetical order. Similarly, they keep their introduction short and simple, letting the ethnically diverse poets speak for themselves. A few writers trivialize the experience, and many employ rhetoric rather than image, but there are also poems whose sharp, concise portraits will not soon be forgotten. These are not Sixties pacifists protesting war but for the most part a generation of writers who have grown up with graphic violence posing as entertainment. Many have yet to publish collections, so their names will be unfamiliar, but that shouldn't dissuade libraries from purchasing this excellent anthology. Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.