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In the Language of My Captor

Winner of the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry (2017)

Acclaimed poet Shane McCrae's latest collection is a book about freedom told through stories of captivity. Historical persona poems and a prose memoir at the center of the book address the illusory freedom of both black and white Americans. In the book's three sequences, McCrae explores the role mass entertainment plays in oppression, he confronts the myth that freedom can be based upon the power to dominate others, and, in poems about the mixed-race child adopted by Jefferson Davis in the last year of the Civil War, he interrogates the infrequently examined connections between racism and love. A reader's companion is available at wesleyan.edu/wespress/readerscompanions.

About the Author

SHANE MCCRAE is the author of four other books of poetry, including The Animal Too Big to Kill, Mule, Forgiveness Forgiveness, and Blood.

Reviews

"His language remains as stark as the perdurable, terrible history it contains — a history that is not over yet."—Stephanie Burt, New York Times Book Review

"His language remains as stark as the perdurable, terrible history it contains — a history that is not over yet.—Stephanie Burt, New York Times Book Review [A]n astonishingly precise account of a complex emotional past..—Ryo Yamaguchi, Boston Review McCrae continues his confrontations with American racism in his superb fifth collection. With a raw honesty, McCrae refuses to shy away from the effects of oppression and faces up to those not willing to acknowledge their part in a history many want to forget.—Publishers Weekly [In the Language of My Captor] impl[ies] an audience other than the captor, someone who might hear his description of the captivity—spoken, it seems, in the language of his captivity—and understand."—Jonathan Farmer, Kenyon Review

"In this fifth collection, Shane McCrae has created a masterful hybrid that at once revels in the lyric and mocks it for its failures. What good is knowing the language of the oppressor, the jailor, In the Language of My Captor seems to ask, when articulation can't enact liberation? The voices in this book create a landscape, indeed a village, haunted by abandon, intrusion, imprisonment and determinacy. In the vein of Robert Lowell and in conversation with poets such as Anne Carson and M. NourbeSe Philip, the poems in Language explore revelation, through juxtaposed narrative and situation, in a way that has kind of ruined me. The part I can't quite put into words is how much this book means to me."—francine harris

"McCrae is a flexible, experimental poet investigating the way history lays over (and under) the present moment."—Emily Temple, LitHub

"On the great subject of our era – the history of race in America – add this beautiful book to your list of essential reading. For searing clarity combined with supplest humanity, In the Language of My Captor is second to none. Masterfully weaving the voices of a contemporary narrator, an actor from the so-called golden age of Hollywood, a speaker exhibited behind bars, and the historical figure of Jim Limber the Adopted Son of Jefferson Davis," Shane McCrae traces the painful evolution of subjectivity under the sign of racial division. With exquisite moral and musical calibration, he mines the eloquence of unembellished American speech. In addition to their other virtues – and they are legion – these poems afford a master class in the powers of lyric compression."—Linda Gregerson, author of Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976 to 2014

"As I read Shane McCrae's In the Language of My Captor, I thought of the Romanian poet Paul Celan."—Valerie Duff-Strautmann, Salamander

"Out of personal history, out of the history of an enduringly fractured nation, and out of the deep history of language, Shane McCrae is writing the most urgent, electric poems of his generation. A collection of love and rage, of vision and brilliant craft, In the Language of My Captor is the book America needs now."—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

"[In the Language of My Captor] impl[ies] an audience other than the captor, someone who might hear his description of the captivity—spoken, it seems, in the language of his captivity—and understand."—Jonathan Farmer, Kenyon Review

"McCrae continues his confrontations with American racism in his superb fifth collection. With a raw honesty, McCrae refuses to shy away from the effects of oppression and faces up to those not willing to acknowledge their part in a history many want to forget."—Publishers Weekly

"His language remains as stark as the perdurable, terrible history it contains — a history that is not over yet."—Stephanie Burt, New York Times Book Review

"[A]n astonishingly precise account of a complex emotional past."—Ryo Yamaguchi, Boston Review

Wesleyan University Press

9780819577122 : in-the-language-of-my-captor-mccrae
Paperback / softback
108 Pages
$14.95 USD
9780819577115 : in-the-language-of-my-captor-mccrae
Hardback
108 Pages
$24.95 USD
9780819577139 : in-the-language-of-my-captor-mccrae
Electronic book text
108 Pages
$11.95 USD

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