Atmosphere Conditions

This volume, selected by Nathaniel Mackey for the 1998 National Poetry Series awards, is likely to be among the more challenging collections the casual reader of poetry will encounter. Fractured grammar, fragmented images, assertions, and hesitations all shape the curious landscape of Roberson’s verse; at times, it is difficult to say precisely what this is all about, except the experience of being black and trying to create poetry in America at the present moment. Roberson’s rhythms owe something, it seems, to straight-ahead jazz and the revival of spoken poetry in poetry slams, and readers who have enjoyed similar efforts may appreciate this poet’s visions of “a black hole/ some speak of as astronomical/ but you know as maybe your next breath/ against air’s wall of mirror without image/ which itself is a mark a meteor/ of absence.” For larger collections.AGraham Christian, formerly with Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, MA

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Selected by

Nathaniel Mackey