Poetry News

Shane McCrae's The Animal Too Big to Kill

By Harriet Staff


More at Bookslut: Ryo Yamaguchi reviews Shane McCrae's book The Animal Too Big to Kill (Persea Books). The work, writes Yamaguchi, should be received in the context of an outraged public consciousness, a "new era of civil rights protest."

...[T]he broken speech of McCrae's stutter is, in fact, expertly crafted -- it is his characteristic style, seen across his books. It's his "intelligible haze," as he has called it, which can take the weight of noise, and through an almost visceral persistence with small but accumulating breakthroughs -- such as how we arrive at "praise" in the above quote -- articulate it toward larger revelation.

In the present collection that revelation is one about personal history. McCrae has, throughout his books, anchored his projects with confessional-style approaches, but in this collection this mode is at its most direct. The devotional framing (the book is split into three sections: "Morning Prayer," "Midday Prayer," and "Evening Prayer") enacts a therapeutic meditation into the self's past -- into childhood -- in order exorcise its demons, to use an apt phrase.

A significant feature of this exorcism is McCrae's peculiar experience as a person of mixed race who was raised by white racists. It's an experience that he jams -- like too much clay into an oddly shaped jar -- into the paradoxical demographic signifier "black white trash," which opens many of these poems as a kind of thesis refrain.

Yamaguchi continues to make a case for McCrae, and in so doing, for the affective contours of a politically minded poetics: McCrae's poems, she writes, "give us an important form of continuity between the private turmoil of hatred and abandonment and the public voice that seeks recognition, community, and atonement." Read it all at Bookslut.

P.S. Editor Jessa Crispin announced that the May issue will be Bookslut's last. "The archives will remain up until the apocalypse comes. Thanks for keeping me company through the years." No, thank you!