Winner of the 2019 Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
In Anagnorisis: Poems
, the award-winning poet Kyle Dargan ignites a reckoning. From the depths of his rapidly changing home of Washington, D.C., the poet is both enthralled and provoked, having witnessed-on a digital loop running in the background of Barack Obama's unlikely presidency--the rampant state-sanctioned murder of fellow African Americans. He is pushed toward the same recognition articulated by James Baldwin decades earlier: that an African American may never be considered an equal in citizenship or humanity.
This recognition--the moment at which a tragic hero realizes the true nature of his own character, condition, or relationship with an antagonistic entity--is what Aristotle called anagnorisis
. Not concerned with placatory gratitude nor with coddling the sensibilities of the country's racial majority, Dargan challenges America: "You, friends- / you peckish for a peek / at my cloistered, incandescent / revelry-were you as earnest / about my frostbite, my burns, / I would have opened / these hands, sated you all."
At a time when U.S. politics are heavily invested in the purported vulnerability of working-class and rural white Americans, these poems allow readers to examine themselves and the nation through the eyes of those who have been burned for centuries.