A white woman navigates her fear and uncertainty to learn the ways of the people she called savages, until she begins to dream "in Dakota, syllables sliding / on my tongue like tender pieces of meat." An African man, on display as a cannibal at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, sees into the future: "humiliations heaped up / as on overfilled plates .../ ...a country that casually / consumes its own." A woman holds the gray-blue barrel of a gun in her mouth, "the taste familiar / as her own blood." With an unexcelled command of narrative verse, Lisa Chavez tells the stories of American lives across more than a century. Whether retelling nineteenth-century captivity narratives or depicting contemporary American women confronting addiction and despair, Chavez investigates issues of identity and self-definition in the face of an often harsh and unremitting history.
Her story-poems explore the ways in which people have been made captive whether to racism or national policy, to bad marriages or alcoholism, to poverty or emotion from the Inuit woman birthing a son among strangers to the wife now deranged by desire for another man: "He's the smoky slow-burn of chipotle on the tongue. My golden idol. My gospel revival. He's hashish sweet and languorous my body's one desire." In the end, Chavez shows us a New World of promise in which an alchemist's assistant summons stories from stones by calling their names with "clicks of her tongue, / syllables of silver, turquoise, and jade," and a Native woman discovers her true power in an Alaskan bar. Passionate and political, In an Angry Season is a work of startling depth and breadth an American history in poetry that asks us what it means to be civilized.
Lisa D. Chavez is the author of a previous book of poetry, Destruction Bay. Her work has been anthologized in American Poetry: The Next Generation, The Floating Borderlands: 25 Years of U.S. Hispanic Literature, and Floricanto Si!: A Collection of Latina Poetry. She teaches creative writing and literature at Albion College in Michigan.