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Jake Adam York’s Abide Reviewed at The Rumpus
One of the things I’ve long admired about Jake Adam York’s poetry is the way he wrote about his native south. It’s tricky to write about the south when you’re a member of the dominant culture–white and male–in part because of the pressure to, if not uphold the status quo, at least not talk about it too loudly, lest the rest of the world hear and thus judge us for it. The south I grew up in was defensive and insular, proud of things that, as an adult, shame me daily. And yet there are parts of the south, of my childhood and adult life, that I adore to this day. How do you find a balance between truth or accuracy and love for a place and its people? Jake Adam York did it by telling his tales without flinching. There’s no nostalgia in his work, no reaching back for a better, golden time. Beauty and desolation each have their places here.
And then turns to Abide proper:
Abide, York’s most recent, and tragically, his final book, continues the work he started in his earlier collections Murder Ballads, A Murmuration of Starlings and Persons Unknown. In “Foreword to a Subsequent Reading,” he asks:
For a white man to elegize men, women, and children, murdered by men whom I resembled, demographically, by men to whom I may be related or for whom I may be mistaken–for this man to elegize these martyrs requires hesitation, a stutter, a silence in which the ghosts of those murderers may be sloughed from my skin, even if only for a moment. In these moments of hesitation, these poems consider or enact the consideration of the necessary ethical questions–what does it mean to elegize, what does it mean to elegize martyrs, what does it mean to disturb the symmetries of the South’s racial politics or its racial poetics?
That’s a big ask, but York was willing to take on the challenge, and Abide is a worthy addition to that project.
Head over to The Rumpus for some close readings and more Rumpus insight!