Work Title: 19 Names for Our Band
Work Author(s): Jibade-Khalil Huffman
144 pages, Softcover $15.00
Reviewer: Camille-Yvette Welsch
Fence Books tends towards the avant-garde, the young, the hip, and this collection of poems fits into the niche well. Huffman's poems resist traditional narrative meaning, relying instead on the power of nuance, juxtaposition, and suggestion. Here ambiguity salts every poem, inviting reading and re-reading. While some books may be devoured in a sitting, these poems suggest the amuse-bouche, each a taste of observation and intuition that creates an understanding which is almost always fluid.
For Huffman, winner of the Grolier Poetry Prize, none of these poems are ostensibly autobiographical. Instead, a character named Jerome makes frequent appearances chronicling his "early life." Rather than having the poems grouped, Huffman lets them serve as a backbone chronicle of early memories; "This year I will enter a beauty pageant and start courting a boy who calls me his little big mouth bass and I have many loafers, a pair for every occasion"; relationships, "There were ashes on the lips of their glasses and pins in their hair a way I imagined was dangerous"; and more. Here and elsewhere, the poet intersects high diction...