University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018
Tiana Clark’s debut full-length, I Can’t Talk about the Trees without the Blood, paints a vivid portrait of a woman negotiating the opposing forces (black/white; desire/trauma; past/present) that suffuse her life. Aware of the inextricable linkages between history, sex, violence, language, beauty, music, and race, Clark asks her poems to probe it all, and in her dexterous hands, they do, carrying the reader along with gorgeous, spellbinding rhythms and images. These poems burst at the seams in the best way. They engage the dead in conversation, translate dance and film into syntax, find shapes that can be read—thrillingly—in multiple directions. There is energy and fight in every single line. These are poems that will go anywhere and do anything to get free. In the long poem “The Rime of Nina Simone,” the speaker says, “I’m not / afraid to take up the space I need to survive.” And thank God she’s not.