Lyrical, accomplished poems deeply sensitive to local flora and fauna.

BIRDS OF SAN PANCHO AND OTHER POEMS OF PLACE

These collected poems engage with beauty and vulnerability across the globe.

Many of the 74 poems in this, Day’s seventh full-length collection, appeared in literary journals; two were nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The collection’s two parts, “Foreigner” and “Between the Two Shining Seas,” signal its organizing theme of travel, abroad and domestic. Day’s background in biology and zoology informs the collection’s sense of place. In the title poem, for example, the speaker’s knowledge adds nuance to a scene: “Later, at the lagoon, a great blue heron, / a little blue heron, a green heron, / a night heron.” The poet’s craft links these images through recurring sounds like later/lagoon/blue, emphasizing the moment’s wholeness. Many of the pieces delight in color; in “Water Lilies,” the poet “enter[s] the painting” to participate directly in Monet’s hues of pink, yellow, blue-green, gray, white, purple, and red. In other poems, Day movingly mourns for injuries to nature and people. “Names of the States,” for example, is a litany of the dispossession: Texas means “ ‘friends’ or ‘allies’ in the language of the Caddos, / who were removed to Oklahoma in 1859.” Some of the strongest pieces consider grief. In “Come Back,” the speaker says she wants her daughter to behave in every annoying, worrisome way. Only the last lines state her heartbreaking condition: “but this time / you have to live.” The often poignant mood of the collection is somewhat undercut, however, when read against the many depictions of far-flung leisure travel. In the wistful final poem, “Going,” the speaker says her dreams included “a better vacation,” but it’s hard to imagine much better vacations than the ones she describes.

Lyrical, accomplished poems deeply sensitive to local flora and fauna.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4218-3664-5

Page Count: 126

Publisher: Blue Light Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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