By Harold Bloom

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Additional info for African-American Poets, Volume 2, New Edition (Bloom's Modern Critical Views)

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Harper implies that the paradigm has a close similarity to the way “the Renaissance [was] built on slave trading” (137). It also parallels Katrina Trask’s buoyant but ironic wish for artists to engage in leisured, elegant creating on the grounds of her estate. For, in another poem of Harper’s “Uplift” series, “Dining from a Treed Condition, An Historical History as Moral Ecology in the Poetry of Michael S. Harper 45 Survey,” we learn that the first white owner of the land was Jacobus Barhyte, a Revolutionary War officer who was an “American patriot” (33); he was also a slaveholder.

That’s part of the genius of Phillips’ title and collection: he writes a poetry in which sex between men is the ordinary, even classical, state of affairs, one in which it is entirely more remarkable to think about a stag in the woods than an erection. And both of them announce themselves in their titles as mounting a full-frontal embrace of that which is denigrated. €. Wrong, very rightly wrong,” making certain that we get both the sense of abjection and the sense of liberation that accompanies the mouthing of dust, dead things, words.

And Fitful Memories of Pan,” part IV, “Dropped Flute”) Fire, of course, is the missing element above. And it’s missing, at least in its blatant form, in these poems, too. What is there instead is light: “lucid // distortion” (Shepherd, “Motive”), “invisible // curves on the air / to mark what was let go” (Phillips, “Unbeautiful”). In several tremendous poems of light, particularly Shepherd’s “Kneeling Self Portrait,” and “Brightens,” and in Phillips’ “Study, Between Colors” and “Animal,” there is a constant and persistent attention to the ways that light is both a source of radiation and something reflected, that which makes sight, and insight, possible, both in the moments of its brightness and in its dusk.

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