At once original, strange, funny, and unnerving, Shane Book’s Congotronic takes the reader into unstable territory, where multiple layers of voice, diction, and music collide. Some of these poems have the sparse directness of a kind of bleak prayer; others mingle the earthbound rhythms of hip-hop with the will-to-transcendence of high Romanticism.
Harnessing techniques of the cinematic and audio arts, Book’s poems splice, sample, collage, and jump-cut language from an array of sources, including slave narratives, Western philosophy, hip hop lyrics, and the diaries of plantation owners. In fusing disparate texts, each poem in this collection attempts to create a community in language. Thus, at its core, the project is utopicor more precisely, to borrow from Duke Ellingtonthe project is “blutopic.”
The book’s anchoring series contains an apocryphal narrative grounded in the journey of the Middle Passage and an older mythic history from the West African epic of Sundiata. Here elements of Afrofuturism coagulate with an R&B grin as social forces challenge a sense of personhood, prompting free-jazz inflected conversations between the pieces of a shattered, polyvocal self.
Here is a world poet of the Sonic Global South sheathed in a Northern Hemispheric glow suit, high “on Coltrane, on Zeus” but also on the old and new schools of Descartes, M.I.A., Cecil Taylor, Gilbert Ryle, Freud, and Jay Z, among othersor as one poem puts it, the “aural truths.”
About the Author
Shane Book is the author of Ceiling of Sticks, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award. He is also a filmmaker whose award-winning work has screened around the world in numerous film festivals and on television. He is a graduate of New York University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
Read an Excerpt
I have a home in my son’s hand.
The pier is out, the quay closed at noon.
You can sob, so be it, as if dates, as
though you had an oven of dough
everyone wanted. Day, I’m a over it;
out rowing an O.K. used pear,
sailing your barcode, you shop with the pain
you’re out now, avowing.
Our row cake vice squeezing through
sewer hour, I sail mystery O
sewer! Made on that pall of rat veil
A forms a dream navy
in the unclear I don’t miss saying.
Table of Contents
Security of the First World,
Mack Daddy Manifesto,
THE COLLECTED NOVELLAS OF GILBERT RYLE:,
They Are Not Bits of Clockwork,
They Are as Robinson Crusoes, Commanding,
They Are Exploding Just Feet above the Desert Sands,
They Cannot Be Taken to Bits,
They Are Intrinsically Phosphorescent,
They Are Not Motions, Suites, Cabins,
They Foment a Revolt,
They Have a Private Career,
They Are of an Extraordinary Feral Territory,
They Come Home in a Torrent of Laughter and a Nubian Eunuch-Powered Litter,
The Ivorian "because because",
A Laborious Wakefulness or Was It a Most Unapologetic Whistling in the Ear,
The Colony Mating Song,
Chinese Blow Up Doll,