With Tray Aldon Nielsen establishes himself as a formidable voice among American poets. And voice, his forte and bete noire, articulates social criticism as aesthetic form. The incantations of religious and secular crusades are rendered in the eponymous opening poem as live scratching by a deejay (call him History, or God): Gangster Zimmerman as another wanna-be gangsta. And in the poems that constitute “Escamotage,” the second half of the book, Nielsen’s penchant for puns, jokes and blues whimsy are offset by a deft lyricism that is, by turns, poignant (“Interval” is a touching homage to Lucille Clifton’s “The Lost Baby Poem”), humorous (“Clarence Farmer’s Complaint”) and celebratory (“Experimental Hope”). The common senses and uncommon sense delineated as Tray will be balm for our new dark age.
These days we're trying to save us. These are some good poems about that.
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