R. Gregory Christie
Adoff creates a moving meditation on the roots of American blues. The poet explores the profound relationship between the enslavement of Africans and the music born of that brutalization: "This New World music m o v e s with shackle sounds." Recurring metaphors flow through the 60 poems, riffing on trauma and triumph. Metal, for one: the clank of chains on ships and chain gangs; a hoe striking rock; the reverberating steel of guitar strings and piano wire. Blood signifies death but also "the / r i c h / red / c h i l d / b i r t h / c o l o r / o f / j o y." Spare, spondaic lines pulse, connecting the mundane (church, cooking) with the music's transcendence. Some poems center on specific performers. The poet wryly considers Robert Johnson's alleged bargain with the devil: "We can still tell that story and smile as we sing his words. His soul is in his songs and his songs live deep on blue e a r t h." Christie's Expressionistic acrylics employ a palette of crimson, teal and brown, reserving grays for faces and hands, linking shackled slaves with sharecroppers, rocking grandmothers with juke-joint dancers. An incandescent, important work. (Poetry. 8 & up) Read full book review >
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