Selected Essays



Bare Life and the Limits of Self in Claudia Rankine's Citizen

“This essay reads Citizen against longstanding tropes of the breath in American poetry and within its own cultural moment of arbitrary, state-sanctioned violence against black citizenry in America. In an era when no person of color presumes to breathe freely, Citizen proposes a new model for the American lyric, a poetics of the moan and the sigh, borne out by the complexly raced and multiply identified subjects that speak in these poems. The moan and the sigh, both labored and lowing kinds of breath, suggest a means of survival, but they also memorialize the subject in extremis, formed in and through “injurious terms” and discursive “violation.”

Jacket2, 2019


The Material Poetics of Punctuation

“The 1844 Webster definition for “dash” encompasses not only the “mark or line in writing or printing, noting a break or stop in the sentence” and “a pause; or the division of the sentence,” but also “Collision,” “Infusion,” “Admixture,” “A rushing,” “A sudden stroke,” and “A flourish.” Thus the dash is a paradoxical mark that both divides (“break or stop”) and joins (“Collision” and “Admixture”). The dash moves forward in a line with speed (“A rushing”), but it also lingers (“a pause”). I argue that the multivalent, paradoxical nature of the dash is crucial for understanding not only Dickinson’s theorization of “Success in Circuit,” but also the various ways in which contemporary poets like Susan Howe and Jen Bervin have entered that circuit and claimed their inheritance. For both Howe and Bervin, the dash is an emblem rich with permission. The dash is a slant (dis)continuity, an (im)material mark of connection through non-connection.”

Talisman: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, 2018

alice by moonlight

Anastacia-Reneé’s sheroism and survivals

“These poems throb with what is most human in all of us: our selves, children, families, lovers, and communities — our matterings and our survivals. To experience Anastacia-Reneé’s poems is to marvel/wonder/wander in their exquisite architecture, their tangled roots and branches, their involutions and unmakings of identity, consciousness, and the ontological certainty of things.”

The Fight & The Fiddle, 2018