Abstract by Charles Alston
Negro League Baseball
Fence, July 2011. 88 pp.
In Negro League Baseball, her debut volume of prose poems, Harmony Holiday wrestles with the perplexing question of how a black artist can live and work without drawing attention exclusively toward race, while returning regularly to the death of her father, the soul singer Jimmy Holiday. In an afterword, Holiday tries to explicate some of what she was attempting in this beautiful, confounding, and at times perilous book:
Not too drastic, not too casual: a place of simultaneous freedom and constraint. Here as elsewhere, Holiday has inherited her father’s musical legacy: the intensity, rigor, and playfulness with sound in her poetry is immense, as loving and complex a tribute as a parent can imagine. I quote one exemplary passage, from “Death by Then”:
It is reconciliation without reconciliation. I had to invent an impossible/mythorealistic space wherein [my father] and I could have and insinuate the conversations he and I never got to finish in this realm, a place not too drastic, but not too casual either.
A wizening, a new shrewd issuing sing, for him. I’m listening green, not like splendor, like latitude, for you a cleft gruesomeness treading itself scentless poppies seeping us noxious, my favorite hue and the context you care in, the color you carry the color, cousin the color, cousin and color, for lust towards husk sounds, carboned around the paranoia of ignoring a lever and a mother and a sister as inert glimmers of family grow vulgar or oliver, vinegar green, I’m thinking of two passings growing back, growing one verde arrogate, thinking it irritates me to pursue a canyoned longing to rural green renewal, drawl green, Iowa wasn’t green, shag carpet green, still thinking the grass which grows out of tar shoulder, the carved shrug toward our such slick road. I’m last green of an August funeral, struggling to depict what’s kept thinking.