Suck on the Marrow

Overview

Suck on the Marrow is a historical narrative, revolving around six main characters and set in mid-19th century Virginia and Philadelphia. The book traces the experiences of fugitive slaves, kidnapped Northern-born blacks, and free people of color, exploring the interdependence between plantation life and life in Northern and Southern American towns and illuminating the connections between the successes and difficulties of a wide range of Americans, free and slave, black and white, Northern and Southern. This ...

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Overview

Suck on the Marrow is a historical narrative, revolving around six main characters and set in mid-19th century Virginia and Philadelphia. The book traces the experiences of fugitive slaves, kidnapped Northern-born blacks, and free people of color, exploring the interdependence between plantation life and life in Northern and Southern American towns and illuminating the connections between the successes and difficulties of a wide range of Americans, free and slave, black and white, Northern and Southern. This neo-slave narrative treats the truths of lives touched by slavery with reverence but is not afraid to question the ways the old stories have too often been told. In addition to creating new stories, Suck on the Marrow develops new ways of telling those tales. 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Camille Dungy’s important new collection, Suck on the Marrow, explores the lives of African Americans in the 19th century, illuminating parts of slave and free black experience that are often overlooked. Plainspoken and unflinching, these poems enter the interior landscapes of the characters’ psyches to examine the nature of desire and longing and loss. With restraint and wry wit, Dungy shows us these things underscored by ownership and commodity. Foregrounding the stories of people for whom fewer records have been left, Suck on the Marrow offers us a fuller view of our collective American experience.

—Natasha Trethewey

The Barnes & Noble Review

Camille Dungy's Suck on the Marrow also begins on a field of faint traces. It has to -- it is talking about people history hasn't recorded, a painful chapter of American life in which free and freed blacks were captured from the North and sold back into slavery. Re-imagining these lives, Dungy offers us a haunting song cycle -- a drama no less well-plotted than a play's, but one that emerges in snippets of imagined letters. These poems are not about King anybody, but "Joseph Freeman," captured and sent South; his wife, Malinda, left to grieve without explanation, and Molly and Shad, who brave love on a Virginia plantation. Dungy's verse sings into absence, into places she's envisioned out of newspaper marginalia. Here are the sobering words of "The Trapper's Boast": "Give me a crowd of colored men and I can spot the new arrivals -- / freed men or fugitives -- / I can tell them from those born with a claim to their flesh./… My mark is the colored man at ease with his freedom."

At the end, where notes would normally document research, Dungy plays with us again -- her references, to research and to her own hunt for information -- are themselves a poem that stresses the task of representing incompleteness.

--Tess Taylor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597094689
  • Publisher: Red Hen Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2010
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 84
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Camille T. Dungy is the author of What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), a finalist for the PEN Center USA 2007 Literary Award and the Library of Virginia 2007 Literary Award. Dungy has received fellowships from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, The Virginia Commission for the Arts, Cave Canem, Bread Loaf, the Dana Award, and the American Antiquarian Society.  Dungy is Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University. Editor of Black Nature: A Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press, 2009), she is co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea Books, 2009) and assistant editor of Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006). Her poems have been published widely in anthologies and print and online journals. 

 

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