Negro League Baseball
Harmony Holiday
Fence Books, $15.95 (paper)

Less about baseball than the sport in seeking what’s in-between “girlhood and world and wood,” the selves Harmony Holiday summons in her debut collection work through the paths one takes from “the threshold of a Virginia porch” to “Mr. Bo Jangles sinecured in Mississippi” and a father who’s “keeping a child for his Stetson.” (The poet’s father is the soul singer-songwriter Jimmy Holiday.) This is personal and cultural history fit together first as hearing and then as seeing, its unstoppable assonance consonant with the notion that understanding will require some assembly, some difference in viewpoint, some “parallax of throat habits, the rapture of switching death // with the shrill lack of custody.” Holiday is interested less in “the vista, the word vista, the good word and look as it’s splitting”—after all, there are many “Centers in the circle of a crowd”—and more in an E Pluribus Unum identity intent on counting scars as well as kindnesses, confident that we may do so transitively: “These many languages I favor into one swoop of order . . . there you are looking famous as a coin face . . . my any abolitionist, my gambling habit.” Negro League Baseball expends itself for us like notes in a trumpeter’s solo, is full of minor sevenths that resolve, knows that any song with lift acknowledges the gravity exerted by everything underneath it, and that its flight is itself a way to demonstrate love: “I am proud of the things I favor, so sore from them.”