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Hands Washing Water
Chris Abani
$15.00 paperback
978-1-55659247-8
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Hands Washing Water
Chris Abani

After fleeing Nigeria, where Chris Abani was imprisoned, tortured, and sentenced to death for his literary activities, Abani continued to write poetry and fiction. Hands Washing Water, is his fourth poetry collection, a book of subversive humor, exile, and ancestry that expands beyond personal history to envision a greater compassion. "If there's nothing at risk," Abani once said in an interview, "it cannot be art."

 

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Hands Washing Water - Chris Abani

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For Hands Washing Water, Chris Abani

"In Abani's fourth volume, he explores place and humor, exile and freedom, with poems of experience and imagination. At the book's center is a series of epistolary poems, letters between two lovers during the Civil War. Though these are set in the 1860's, their imagery might reflect current conflicts as they consider morality, politics, and gender: 'There is something malevolent brewing / in our very souls. A thing so heinous / that should we wish to return from it, we could not / devise a path home.' In others, Abani uses humor with an often sardonic wit. In 'Coleman,' the narrator refers to a rumor that saxophonist Ornette Coleman was voluntarily castrated to improve his playing: 'If Coleman had lived in the South, / when black men garnished trees / he would have got his operation for free-see?' With an abundance of music and language, Abani's poems examine injustice and liberation from it: 'Even after the wounds have healed, / I scratch around the phantom scab, avoiding / what lies beneath.' Some might argue that Abani enters the wound with a boldness that avoids nothing. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"Hands Washing Water is a great collection of poetry, one that can be enjoyed every time it's read. The Copper Canyon publication is a nice size and weight and travels well in a purse or pocket."—PoeticDiversity.org

"Abani’s luminous language commands attention… "—Philadelphia Inquirer

"Abani is at his best not when he's thinking through the problems of then, but when he’s dreaming about the pleasures of right now... Abani makes radiant images."—Chicago Tribune

"What shines through... is Abani's reverence for the human spirit."—Poetry Flash

"Abani's poems are all muscle, they leap and stretch across the globe, back and forth in time... "—Multi Cultural Review

 

"These poems teach that nothing buried is dead; they breathe in the moment between Question and Answer, between Place and Displacement, and know, as one poem ends, that the moment is fire. Pliant and uncompromising, intellectual and organic, these brilliant poems are made of fire. I was enlightened by the flame and consumed by it."—Terrance Hayes

"Abani compresses space, time, language, matter, history and consciousness. From suffering to desire, from war to love. Each one a hinge toward enlightenment. Each one a tender mirror that turns into liquid sunlight in your hands."—Juan Felipe Herrera

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