Treasure Shields Redmond, Chop: A Collection of Kwansabas for Fannie Lou Hamer (Argus House Press): Poet and professor Eugene Redmond created the kwansaba, a poetic form consisting of seven lines of seven words, each containing no more than seven letters. His daughter Treasure has followed in his footsteps and is a powerful Pushcart Prize–nominated poet in her own right. For several years, she’s been documenting, in poetry, the life of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the prime organizers of the 1964 Freedom Summer. Redmond’s performed her Fannie Lou poems at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, fort gondo, and Left Bank Books, among other venues; her readings are electric, like a big crackling thunderbolt from the cosmos. Reading chop is a quieter but no less powerful way to experience her work. The kwansaba uses seven because it’s a magic number—especially when the poet using the form is such a pro at channeling its powers.
Martha Collins, Admit One: An American Scrapbook (University of Pittsburgh Press): Collins is a Boston poet, but her mother hails from here; one poem is titled “St. Louis Zoo.” But Collins isn’t lyricizing about a walk in Forest Park. Using family history and newspaper clippings, she quietly unpacks the history of the St. Louis World’s Fair, focusing on the “anthropological” exhibits and how those led, directly or indirectly, to atrocities including the incarceration of Ota Benga in the Bronx Zoo and the works of eugenicist Madison Grant, whose books were revered by the Nazis. She ends with a cycle of “Postscript” poems—one quotes a series of unbelievable tweets from figures such as Richard Dawkins and Ted Nugent—weaving together history with the present, reminding us, without preaching or polemics, how dangerously close we still are to the mindset of 1904.