Book Review: Anagnorisis
Kyle Dargan’s fifth collection of poetry, Anagnorisis, came out this September. Prescient, reflective, and unapologetically aware, the collection confronts the reader with a sense of urgency coupled with a lack of effective and lasting agency. Anagnorisis succeeds in expressing the frustration so many of us experience daily with the current political status quo, while creating and maintaining a point of view and perspective that is distinct and wholly belonging to the speaker throughout the collection. It is a rumination about what it means to experience both American life and life in a larger global context as an African American man in the later Obama years and the early Trump years. Dargan is a master of connecting the correlation of seemingly unrelated topics, such as race and climate change – and, it is this ability to distill the ordered nature of disorder onto the page that propels his work from the merely aesthetic to the urgent.
Anagnorisis derives its name from the Greek term that refers to the point of a plot just before the protagonist discovers the true nature of his or her situation, or as Dargan explained during his reading at the Politics and Prose event in mid-September, “the moment before everything changes.” For Dargan, this moment was during Obama’s presidency. The fact that many of these poems were written before Trump took office only serves to highlight the seer-like quality of much of Dargan’s work – even down to his use of the word “collusion” in the opening poem, “Failed Sonnet After the Verdict,” which is a rumination about the Trayvon Martin shooting and George Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal. In 2018, the word collusion is as loaded as the gun that shot Trayvon and sparked the beginning of the current national dialogue about race, gun violence, and the systemic forces that operate in the justice system. Throughout the collection, Dargan confronts these pressing topics and the speaker adeptly forces the reader to face the litany of pressures the speaker experiences as a black man in America today, yesterday, and during the times so many of us tricked ourselves into believing everything was fine, or at least okay.
The poems in this collection represent a time that was and is anything but okay. And, the onus is put on the reader to act after reading. Divided into four sections, the book traverses global, domestic, local, and personal spaces. The second section has two essays about Dargan’s experience on the night that Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri and another just before he is set to leave for his time spent in China in the days following the riots in Ferguson in response to Brown’s shooting. Like the poems found in the collection, these essays weave together a concise reaction to the world that produced Dargan and the speaker in his poems – a world that so many people ignored. It is forcing this confrontation that makes this book so powerful. During the discussion at the reading, Dargan explicated how Trump’s election was “an erasure of neo-liberal fantasies” and the role the election played in “exposing Truths.” This book situates itself as a major work during a time of exposing these truths and eradicating harmful notions of that okay-ness (the ultimate neo-liberal fantasy).
Image: Author’s website.
Austine Elizabeth Chilton Model is a staff editor at Café MFA and a first-year candidate in American University’s Creative Writing MFA program.