Survival Strategies: Poems

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$19.95  $18.55
University of Georgia Press
Publish Date
5.5 X 8.5 X 0.23 inches | 0.29 pounds
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About the Author

TENNISON S. BLACK is the managing editor of Sundress Publications and Best of the Net. They received an MFA at Arizona State University, and their work has appeared or is forthcoming in SWWIM, Hotel Amerika, Booth, Wordgathering, and New Mobility, among others. They live in Washington State.


The Sonoran desert, invoked through saguaros, scorpions, jackrabbits, coyotes, and cowboys, is nearly a character in these fierce poems, which chronicle the poet's return to a place that 'has been trying to kill me since I was born.' Recurring images of place, along with a unifying narrative, give Survival Strategies the texture of a repeating form on a large scale, as the boundaries between the landscape and one family living in it begin to dissolve. This oneness reaches its crescendo in an original fable, 'The Mother and the Mountain, ' which begins: 'My mother was a bajada. That is, an alluvial fan that settled at the base of a mountain.' Alive with hard-earned understanding and affirmation, these poems are for everyone who ever tried to leave a formative place of pain but found that person and place could never be fully untwined.--Adrienne Su "author of Peach State"
Tennison Black's mesmerizing debut collection, Survival Strategies, is a searching exploration of the poet's deep roots in southern Arizona's 'cowboy culture, ' which she witnessed from the inside as a child. Having rejected her origins in that 'scratchy way of living' that was her father's working ranch in Yuma, Black returns to confront and exorcise the violence that traumatized her. With grace and grit, Black creates a stunning portrait of the ethos of a male dominance (of nature, animals, and women) that haunts us all today. The prose fable that concludes this brilliant collection has the largesse of a vision. This book augurs a major new poet!--Cynthia Hogue "author of instead, it is dark"
In Survival Strategies, we register some familiar tropes: women as rivers, men as mountains, a landscape readily metaphorized to explain conflict between the sexes. Here, a child studies the (of course) conscienceless Sonoran desert as if it could reveal the mysteries of her abusive, often absent, cowboy father or explain her mother--'a tempest, an alluvial slope'--who, eventually, fled the desert and the man. Familiar, yes, since these dynamics and the pain of being endangered by them have recurred and recurred, despite the first-, third-, how-many? waves. Tennison Black brings that landscape to life around a speaker who, in childhood, 'brinked between girl and indignant, ' who couldn't form a self without rebuke from the man or resignation from the woman, whose definitions of both self and love were wrought in deprivation and violence. And yet: Love floods this book, whose dare is to look trauma in its venomous eye--and choose 'am-ing, be-ing, staying put.'--Sally Ball "author of Hold Sway"
I've not been to the Southwest in over a decade, but Tennison Black's Survival Strategies teleports me into the beauty and brutality of that region and its history with impeccable ease. Here we find the 'glory of the jackrabbit, 'the scorpion disguised as a boy, ' but also 'the velvet muzzle.' It is landscape at war with itself that Black sketches with impressive personal detail. This is easily one of the best books of poetry I've read this year.--Kyle McCord "author of Reunion of the Good Weather Suicide Cult"
The desert accomplishes the utmost of Vision by translating absence into presence, nullity into singularity. In Survival Strategies, Tennison Black has shaped a language perfectly attuned to the mothering silences of the desert. With each poem, experience--whether tender or catastrophic--is birthed into new competence and clarity. There is a profound and literal refreshment in this book, one urgently needed now.--Donald Revell "author of White Campion"