Tyree Daye’s Cardinal is a generous atlas that serves as a poetic “Green Book”—the travel-cum-survival guide for black motorists negotiating racist America in the mid-twentieth century. Interspersed with images of Daye’s family and upbringing, which have been deliberately blurred, it also serves as an imperfect family album. Cardinal traces the South’s burdened interiors and the interiors of a black male protagonist attempting to navigate his many departures and returns home—a place that could both lovingly rear him and coolly annihilate him. With the language of elegy and praise, intoning regional dialect and a deliberately disruptive cadence, Daye carries the voices of ancestors and blues poets, while stretching the established zones of the black American vernacular. In tones at once laden and magically transforming, he self-consciously plots his own Great Migration: “if you see me dancing a two step/I’m sending a starless code/we’re escaping everywhere.” These are poems to be read aloud.
“[A] striking second collection of poems… Throughout, Daye investigates where Black people can find safety in a racist America, while memorably cataloguing each area’s complexities and rewards in quiet, nuanced meditations… This book provides a musical, meditative map and account of America.” —Publishers Weekly
“Daye’s big-hearted Cardinal probes and lilts in its questioning around whose movements are free in this country, and whose are not… A ruminative, defiant collection that honors lineages while resisting confinement, declaring: ‘I still watch / what I sing, but I sing.'” —Books Are Magic
“[A] bright new collection… There’s also a sense of rootedness, of deep community…” —Library Journal
“Daye skillfully weaves together both the personal and historical, presenting an experience of living as a Black person in America that is both singular and universal.” —The Arkansas International
“Astonishing… Throughout this book, the poet channels both the living and the dead, and his forceful, highly personal understanding of the American Black diaspora transforms their testimonies into poignant songs.” —The Brooklyn Rail
“These are poems, direct yet lyrical, of navigation in a world that has changed since, but not nearly enough.” —Seattle Met