There are 66 poems and an opening essay. The poems are titled by sequential numbers and indexed by their first lines. the poems read as one long poem transitioning through observation, mediation, incantation, and lament on the environment and history of the land, covering wild life, natural occurrences, warfare, mountain top removal. The poems are very concise and brief and flow well from one poem to the next. Also, with this publication, my first read of Hooks’ poetry, she has added to the growing tome of Afri-lachian art and literature and African writers who write about the environment.
Although I re-read this volume several times, I could never get inside these poems. There was never a poem or even a phrase that struck my spirit and repeatedly felt like I was observing the ideas and even the poems themselves as if I was walking through a museum ..observe but not touching. I didn’t like that feeling and kept trying to re-enter. Hooks’ books, (i.e. essays, memoirs) have always caused a shift, a questioning of assumptions so I was disappointed that my autographed copy didn’t resonate.
I have a secret to share…I’m almost never out and about without a book of poetry. Poetry is comforting and fills the spaces when I find myself waiting…also, when I’m out running about and fatigue or mental lethargy wants to creep in, poetry is my talisman to ward it off and all manners of evil. Exquisite Heats is my new talisman.
Exquiste Heats is the 3rd book of poetry (84 pages) by this author and serves as my introduction to her talent. I became familiar with the author through her blog which is a wealth of information and opinions on writing, poetry, and authors. The Cherryl Floyd-Miller is also a textile artist who recently contributed a block to a group quilt organized through Fiber Artists for Obama. Due to her literary focus and fiber focus, I felt a stronger connection and dedication to keeping up with her blog than most bloggers I read.
Before I proceed I’ll confess that my literary bias points in the direction of poetry over other forms…poetry tends to cut to the marrow of the bone. Not all poets or poems do I grasp or get readily but I take that as an invitation to be taken to new ground that I’m most often grateful for. With this stated, I’ve read the first poem in Exquisite Heats entitled Trapeze: The Greatest Show on Earth. I always wonder what decisions a poet makes in laying out their poems in a collection…how specifically a poem is selected as the first poem from many, but I quickly pushed this question aside and read Trapeze. First quietly…the first stanza and then I was flooded with images from my own family before I could begin again, quietly, the first, second, and third stanzas and again the memories of my own family returned. I quietly started again and read through the entire poem and then read out loud for the sheer fun of hearing the rhythm. The poet parrallels the pull and draw of a family with young children attending the circus with the family’s economic situation. The act of saving for and attending the circus for this family is so much more the greatest show and risk than any act put on by the circus workers.
I found a comedic edginess in the poem…on the surface there is the fun and delight in the irony but the ending lines cut a little deeper when she ends with:
“The greatest of these is putting one day and soon in the same sentence. We survive falls. Plunge thousands of feet into straw. Nothing is there to catch us.”
With these lines, Floyd-Miller invites the reader to reflect on the act and grace of one’s own daily survival.