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What My Hand Say


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In What My Hand Say, Glenis Redmond digs deep, risking peace of mind, the comfort of ignorance and the assurance of being numb to history and memory, to make poems that are urgent, full of alarm, and marked by the realization that the best art is one that dares to look boldly at hard experience and still find a music in it. This is a welcome collection by a poet engaged in the necessary work of writing with a full sense of place and history. South Carolina is fecund with stories and musics, and Redmond manages to tap into this complex resource with skill and heart.--Kwame Dawes, author of City of Bones: A TestamentSome books of poetry resonate so profoundly with us that they sing to the surface our own stories, helping us understand them within the historical and personal context of another poet's experience. In these too-often divisive times, I am grateful to have Glenis Redmond's new collection, What My Hand Say, in my hands. In its lines I hear a voice that harks back to the praise-singers of West Africa, as well as to the porches and back yards of the deep South, voices that sing beyond their ancestral birthplaces into that larger culture in which we live. What My Hand Say lifts up the lifelines and the song lines of Redmond's people, and in doing so, they encompass all our voices. Her stories become our stories. "My head bowed / eyes intent on the stitch, not busy with blame-- / I work the pieces," she tells us. "These stories are useful things, / stitches I follow. / They guide me clear, / and help me stand." They can, if we let them, help us stand, too. This is the joy and power of poetry.--Kathryn Stripling Byer, former Poet Laureate of North Carolina and author of DescentIf poets make words bloom, Glenis Redmond is a master gardener bringing untended history back to life in verse. Rooted in the South Carolina soil where so many stolen Africans were first transplanted, Redmond shares the stories of the state's sons and daughters: her mama's cotton, Dave the Potter's clay vessels, 14-year-old George Stinney's electric chair, Dizzy's notes, her father's fights and fists. Renown as a stage performer, her poems likewise blossom on the page, growing in stanzas that show off Redmond's mastery of voice and form. Listen to what her hand say, as she pulls stories up by the roots and replants them in this unforgettable volume of verse.--P. Gabrielle Foreman, Ned B. Allen Professor of English, Black Studies and History, University of Delaware

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