So Much Happening in the Poems of Samiya Bashir's Field Theories
Samiya Bashir's Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017) is reviewed by Shane Michael Manieri for Lambda Literary. "The collection looks directly into the eye of blackness, death, slavery, American history, and beauty without budging," says Manieri. More:
Of Field Theories, Adrian Matejka said, “There is so much happening in these poems…” And it’s true. There are poems in the voices of John Henry and his wife, Polly Ann, in sections titled “Coronagraphy,”—a coronagraph, as some may know, is a telescope that uses a disk to block the Sun’s bright surface so that one might be able to see things close to it. However, one can’t help but think of a Coronary Angiography, which is a scientifically medical system that X-rays the chest to detect blockages in the heart—which have the literary craftsmanship of Jean Toomer, and is a further study into the relationship between the monumental black figure—be it male or female—and social science, people and their environment, their societies and have the lyrical ballad swing of the language we hear on the street mixed with the colorful characters of the American folklore: man against machine, man against boss, man against the power structure.
Field Theories pivots around this central theme, that the black body—scientifically speaking—is an idealized physical body that absorbs (my italics) electromagnetic radiation, while a white body reflects (my italics) all rays completely and uniformly in all directions. It’s how Bashir renders that theme which makes this collection worth reading. She has taken science and folklore and emphasized the interactions between the individual and his or her environment with a lyrical adeptness that excites the poem/s. There is an intuitive force and a soul to this collection, but there is also the shadow. The mind versus the body, light versus darkness, the individual versus society, and how we measure them all —all of which are very alive throughout each section, either through her exploration of properties or characteristics, “life space,” and the behaving selves.
The full review of Field Theories can be read here.