Nonfiction is a collection of poetry that understands the movement of language. The poems demand reader’s attention by utilizing repetition and creating a sense of necessity. Each line is a desperate account of the ways in which violence disrupts the body and mind. The speaker in Nonfiction crafts a story about American history that is both troubling and bold: “And I I loved my children no // Matter how dark their skin // I loved them . . .” (“An Incident in the Life of Solomon Northup a Free Man” lines 12-14).
From the very beginning, readers will feel the despair in the speaker’s voice. The first poem in the collection is jarring in its depiction of slavery: “I could rebuild the chains now and the ring the bench now and the room // From memory” (lines 50-51). No matter the subject of the poem, whether it be slavery, sexual abuse, or the speaker’s son’s autism, each poem will hit readers with the unflinching truth: “Secret and even then / I knew / He did what he did to me made me invisible / I didn’t have / the blonde face of a kidnapped child . . .” (“2. The Face of Someone” lines 11-13). In Nonfiction, we have a set of poems that are beautiful, even when they’re most brutal.
Upon opening Nonfiction, readers can expect a set of well-crafted poems that contain a rhythm and movement of their own. The poems read fast because of the well-placed repetition that McCrae utilizes in the collection: “My son he was / Six he was six he’s / ten now he was six . . .” (“From the Greek” lines 1-3). Because of this repetition, as well as the collection only being 22 pages of poetry, I was able to finish Nonfiction in a couple of hours. Despite its smallness, the collection holds its own weight, and each page delivers some of the strongest poems in the contemporary poetry today.
Cover of Nonfiction and logo of Black Lawrence Press courtesy of Black Lawrence Press.
Buy McCrae’s collection here.
*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about Black Lawrence Press: “Black Lawrence Press is an independent publisher of contemporary poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. We also publish the occasional translation from German. Founded in 2004, Black Lawrence became an imprint of Dzanc Books in 2008. In January 2014, we spread our wings and became an independent company in the state of New York. Our books are distributed nationally through Small Press Distribution to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and various brick and mortar retailers. We also make our titles available through our website and at various conferences and book fairs. Through our annual contests and open reading periods, we seek innovative, electrifying, and thoroughly intoxicating manuscripts that ensnare themselves in our hearts and minds and won’t let go.”*