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Negative History


72 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations


  Hardcover / 9780807121535 / September 1997

Negative history is a legal term which refers to decisions that have been questioned in some way by an appellate court. Cathryn Hankla’s Negative History alludes to such ambiguity in the domain of a more personal justice, yet as the title poem suggests: “Petals of morning / open in lucid order / opposed to the law. / Here is a question without an answer.”

With the issues tackled in Negative History—individual and familial identity, cultural and emotional heritage—Hankla skillfully balances keenest loss with the gains some losses paradoxically make available (“Submerging yourself, you learned / to search the darkness”).

This remarkable collection plumbs the depths of sexual and transcendent love (“Let me die trying to tell you / one word that might matter”) and summons from those murky realms the feral nature of strong emotions and of our own fears (“I have unearthed / enough emptiness to survive”). In Negative History, Hankla professes the power of love to carry us from “where the press of heat healed the split” into the next century. 

Cathryn Hankla is the author of a collection of stories, Learning the Mother Tongue; a novel, A Blue Moon in Poorwater; and a previous poetry collection, Phenomena. Her poetry has appeared in New Virginia Review, College English, Denver Quarterly, and Woman Poet: The South. She teaches in the writing program at Hollins College, in Virginia.

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