By Jeffrey W. Peterson
me and Nina by Monica A. Hand, Alice James Books, 2012, $15.95 softcover, ( 8.2 x 5.8), 96 pp., ISBN 978-1882295906
Editor’s Note: This review appeared on our old site.
This book isn’t patient. This book isn’t patient because it needs to tell you something. Part of that something appears on the flap of the imitation book jacket:
my name an omen
my name sin
my name a moan
The poem, titled “Eunice Waymon,” appears later on in the book, but I see no reason to complain about its early appearance opposite the title page because me and Nina is about observation, seeing, and viewing. The poems range from a nudge to a yawp to a stare: whatever it takes to gain your attention. You just have to hear “Regret and Pride speak” or “The Spirituals speak”.
In the former poem, Monica writes, “What would you do if your feet felt like weights/ pulling you to a floor you could not reach,” whereas the latter poem shares, “With their many tongues, we were the one language/ they could each speak.” Monica’s poetry does not necessitate response, rather, the poems pose questions and share observations for whatever you may do with them.
While some poems nudge you so you notice them, others grab you by the collar:
“I don’t see much of Rufus after that. And when my mother asks what happened
to him I just shrug my shoulders or tell her I think he’s dead. Just like, I tell
the kids at school who ask where’s my daddy.”
When I finish Hand’s poem “Everything Must Change,” I read it again, not because it’s my duty as a reader. I read it because I want that punch to the gut. When a poem is good, I feel it in my body. It’s always a commotion in my pit, similar to the moment before falling over in a roller coaster. This is a collection of commotion.
Jeffrey W. Peterson was a 2011 Fellow in the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of West Georgia and his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. His work has appeared in African American Review and The Westchester Review. He co-directed the SLC Poetry Festival in 2013 and served as the Creative Director of LUMINA that same year. He currently teaches American Literature in Locust Grove, GA, reads for The Carolina Quarterly and The Boiler, and is on staff for ALLIANCE Drum & Bugle Corps and Atlanta Quest. He is the Poetry Editor and a founding member of Madcap Review.