In James Brasfield's Ledger of Crossroads, layered by light and shadow, the crossroads emerge from distinct yet inseparable geographies. Grounded in the sensual world, the poems fuse American and Eastern European landscapes: "the char of silence and beauty, / brick foundations of what was here, dirt roads / cut through pines, rivers and the dust of the dead." Here are experiences from the American South, of those who believed Jim Crow "the way things . . . had to be," and from the fallen imperiums of those "who have always / returned to fewer trees and a wall," whose intimate perceptions provide moments of reprieves: "beyond the faint scent / of almond in the air and heavy clouds / funneling from the earth into snowfall, / the current calmed within that distant / bend of the Vistula." Here we become the identities of others, their time and place, from the strata of their histories. They enter our lives.
JAMES BRASFIELD received fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, the American Association for Ukrainian Studies Prize in Translation, and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. He is the author of Ledger of Crossroads.
Praise for Ledger of Crossroads
“It is not common for any poet to be able to render a landscape with such sensitive authority as James Brasfield does in Ledger of Crossroads. But this poet evokes two very different worlds, their appearances and their very souls, with equal skill and equal success. If the first part of Ledger of Crossroads offers a haunted and haunting atmosphere, as of middle Europe, the latter poems of the American South bring us a humid, gritty, and undeniable accuracy. An amazing debut and an indelible reading experience!”—Fred Chappell
“Lyrical, dark, elegiac, urbane, James Brasfield's voice finds music in the quietest moments, in ‘two bags of potatoes on a little wooden sled.’ And all the while the ‘snow is falling across Europe’ of his elegies, and trains from Kyiv arrive bringing us Brasfield’s honest voice that speaks directly to us, without patronizing. His engagement with history is lyrical to its very core; each detail shows us an ‘anonymous part of what is seen, / where light within, as from an ikon, / radiates above the street.’”—Ilya Kaminsky
“[With] Cross-cultural empathy and a searing urgency, unfamiliar in much American poetry . . . Brasfield combines a deeply musical lyricism with a historian’s attention to politics.” —Prairie Schooner
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