The Animal Too Big to Kill by Shane McCrae

$15.95 Persea

Half-Black, raised in Texas by White supremacists, Shane McCrae pries into American constructs of race, family, and class. The rhetorical tropes and deeply personal themes vital to his previous work (Mule; Blood; and last year’s Forgiveness Forgiveness) remain, joined here now by the voice of a supplicant, who is, among other things, “trying to say / Something about     money to God.” A few of these poems are explicitly referred to as prayers, while the rest inhabit a self-same atmosphere. McCrae’s speaker feverishly beseeches a “Lord” throughout, but with such constancy as to render the term earthly. The line between reader and addressee grows blurry.

Arresting in their confessions yet darkly beautiful in their devotion, Shane McCrae’s poems read like nobody else’s—with rapidity, with repetition, phrasal loops, syntactical splicing, hopscotch musicality. And all to enchanting, rhythm-heavy effect. I felt as if put under a spell by the end of The Animal Too Big to Kill, unsure what had come over me or what I’d encountered but dying to experience it again.

I must conclude simply by saying: there’s a lot going on here, and all of it works. (Addendum: Be sure to check out Shane McCrae’s poem in November’s issue of Poetry.)

“Museum of Science and History”

Growing up black white trash you grow up
the only and complete / Whale skeleton
In the local mammals wing

Of a museum of science and history in a land-locked state
You grow up Lord     bigger and smaller than you are and were
You grow up white

But not a white that counts it makes
People uncomfortable
who when they think of white think of linoleum

You grow up a display case     Lord in which
Two hares have been arranged to illustrate
The influence of environment on coloring

The one     / Brown as the dirt it dies in
the other so white it disappears behind the glare


Posted by Alexander