Book: Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
Preferred Reading Environment: A bubble bath
Reading Accoutrements: Just enough candle light to read by, and a warm drink
Content Notes: This collection details accounts of racism and sexism.
I first read about Electric Arches on Twitter. I did not know anything about the author, only that she was recommended by someone who I follow online. I decided I was in the mood to read some poetry, so I might as well buy this book.
I’ve read Electric Arches twice now, and plan on it becoming one of the poetry collections I revisit regularly. Poetry reveals itself differently upon each reading, and I have no doubt that this book will continue to divulge things that I haven’t yet noticed.
The blurb on the back of the book says “Electric Arches is an imaginative exploration of black girlhood and womanhood through poetry, visual art, and prose.” This collection is Ewing’s reflection on life as a black woman. She’s sharing her experiences, her pains, her joys, her fantasies.
The first poem, “Arrival Day,” is inspired by a quote by Assata Shakur: “Black Revolutionaries do not drop from the moon. We are created by our conditions.” This piece illustrates the coming of moon people, bringing light and hope to Ewing as a young girl. The blending of fantasy and reality continues throughout this collection.
In “The first time [a retelling],” Ewing tells of the first time she was called the n-word, at the age of six. Mid-poem, the font-type turns into a handwritten scrawl, showing an imagined version of how the situation ended.
“The Device” is a short prose piece illustrating thousands of “One Black Persons” coming together to create a device to talk with people in the past. This piece is probably the most concrete in this collection, and like many of the best short stories, makes me want to read a whole novel based on the concept, but is a complete and satisfying read on its own.
Many of Ewing’s poems are inspired by and written to or about famous people who have influenced her. This includes Koko Taylor, Metta World Peace, LeBron James, Prince, and Zora Neale Hurston. Other pieces relate specific incidents – encountering four black teens being interrogated by the police, running through her neighborhood, a sleepless night in Chicago, going to work with her dad as a child. Some of the poems are odes to seemingly simple items and places that Ewing has a connection with: shea butter, Luster’s Pink Oil, and a closed discount mega-mall.
There are pages in this collection that are images, some more abstract than others. The font changes throughout the collection. Each piece is presented individually, but they all work together to complete a piece of art that gives us insight into the author.
Like with Octavia’s Brood, this is another book where I think the publishing company deserves a shoutout. I don’t think this collection would have been the same if it wasn’t put out by Haymarket Books, a “radical, independent, nonprofit book publisher based in Chicago.” The artfulness of the presentation just wouldn’t fly at most mainstream publishing companies, and with names like Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, and Rebecca Solnit among their authors, I will definitely be looking for more books from them.
This collection is the epitome of what I love about poetry. Some of it is fiction, but all of it is true. There are names and events that I had never heard of, some of which I looked up promptly, others that I’ll explore deeper in future readings. With the prominence of stories from childhood and odes to people and things that have inspired and affected her, I feel like this collection is Ewing’s explanation of what made her the person she is today. This artful-memoir style is one of my favorites and I love the way it is presented here.
When you read poetry, what do you look for? Tell us about your favorite poetry collection in the comments!