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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Samiya Bashir, Gospel

from RedBone Press
Gospel is an ecumenical resistance song in four parts. We enter at the crossroads, tripped up by trickster deity Eshu-Elegba. A chorus of crows, led by Norse god Odin’s raven messengers Hugin & Munin*, guides us into each movement. In this passionate follow-up to 2005’s Lambda Literary Award finalist, Where the Apple Falls, Bashir’s poems challenge truth to stare down the power of fear and paralysis.

"We intended gospel to strike a happy medium for the down-trodden," said gospel music pioneer Thomas Dorsey. "This music lifted people out of the muck and mire of poverty and loneliness, of being broke, and gave them some kind of hope anyway. Make it anything but good news, it ceases to be gospel."

The good news is that we are neither alone in our mess, nor alone in our grasp of the tools to heal. In this pull-no-punches collection Bashir lays down a road map, a portable flashlight, and a shaky-legged escort to usher the way toward recovered sight and strength.

Mosaic Magazine
Bashir gathers stories and language from a range of cultural locations and weaves them into the imagistic and sonic qualities of the poems. The Norse gods make a dramatic and cacophonous appearance and, in one of her most effective rhetorical moves, Bashir utilizes a Ghanian call and response sequence that both effectively heightens the drama and energy in the poem and then brings it to rest at its conclusion. The poems of Gospel are rife with layered meanings while they immerse the reader in a landscape that is both familiar and reassuring as well as deeply unfamiliar and strange.

Gospel, like all good preaching, is both deftly reflective and full of rafter-rattling truths. In a voice stamped with her definitive, soul-drenched signature, Samiya Bashir blesses us with a roadmap for the living of our fractured and uprooted lives, forcing us to take an unflinching look at faith and the way it’s defined. This is a grandmama-braiding-the-hair book, a rev-ripping-up-the-pulpit book, a book you'll constantly come back to for both beauty and guidance.
—Patricia Smith, author of Blood Dazzler

Luminous and deeply shadowed, at times gravely playful, and always intimate, Gospel sings through—and beyond—ancestral and personal terrains simultaneously mysterious and revealed, to achieve a richness that is both exhilarating and sublime. Here are movements that, through rhythm, language, and light, become exactly what the poet envisions: gospel.
—Thomas Glave, author of The Torturer’s Wife

--from Samiya Bashir dot com