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In a Low Country
    by Moody Elbarasi

    by J.H. Prynne

    by J.H. Prynne

    by J.H. Prynne

    by J.H. Prynne

    by duckplex

    by J.H. Prynne

    by chetana

    by Caitlín Doherty

    by Justin Katko

Eastward Ho:
The Saga of Vitus Bering

    by Jennifer Dunbar Dorn

Concepts & Conception in Poetry
    by J.H. Prynne

The Internal Leg & Cutlery Preview
    by Various authors

Remote Carbon
    by Ryan Dobran

Fine Lament
    by Rachel Warriner

Some New Growth
at the Temple or Lobe

    by Rosa van Hensbergen

Songs for One Occasion
    by Justin Katko

Array One
    by Ian Heames

Kaloki Poems
    by Jefferson Toal

    by Jo L. Walton

St. Beaumont Conservative Club
    by Mahmoud Elbarasi

Superior City Song
    by M. Sword & T. Skullface

We Are Real: A History
    by C. Hind & P. Mildew

or, On What There Is

    by J.H. Prynne

    by Mike Wallace-Hadrill

International Egg and Poultry Review (Friends Magazine 2)
    by Various authors

City Break Weekend Songs
    by Posie Rider

    by Ian Heames

    by Marianne Morris

    by Various authors

    by The Two Brothers

All Our Futile Grief
    by Billy Simms & Keith Tuma

    by Josh Stanley

    by Ryan Dobran

    by Keith Tuma

Xena Warrior Princess: The 7 Curses
    by Francis Crot
    (& Nrou Mrobaak)

A Discourse on Vegetation & Motion
    by Frances Kruk

Let Baby Fall
    by Tom Raworth

    by Various authors

wild ascending lisp
    by Sara Crangle

Plantarchy 4
    by Various authors

the church - the school - the beer
    by cris cheek

Poétique des codes sur le réseau informatique: une investigation critique
    by Camille Paloque-Bergés

Plantarchy 2
    by Various authors

    by Coupons-Coupons

Register For More
    by 405-12-3456

She's Not a Manager
    by 405-12-3456

Plantarchy 1
    by Various authors

Realizing the Utopian Longing of Experimental Poetry
    by Justin Katko

Holiday in Tikrit
    by Keith Tuma & Justin Katko

Moody Elbarasi's IN A LOW COUNTRY

Kodak Black said: ‘My name’s Kodak Black but when you see me I’m white’. In “Night Heron”, the poem that opens In a Low Country, Mhmoud Abdul-Hamid (Moody) Elbarasi said: ‘My blood is a sea / Emulsified against / Construction’. The poet adjusts his DNA, inhabiting an historical identity formed beyond the exhaustion of getting profiled, in which the alchemy of poetic selfhood is born of a desire to resist the malevolent engine that chews up native habitats and their inhabitants. The pain of losing family, next to the melodious difficulty of consenting to the industrial extraction of new kinfolk from the archive of human individuation, inflects the refusal to adopt the fantastic belief that human invention will save the species from the deadly fruits of capitalistic assault upon the formal location of the residence of the spirit. KRS-One said: ‘I live in the spirit, others don’t know where it is’ (“There it is”). And Karly Hartzman said: ‘There's nothing like the way you loiter in my heart’ (Wednesday, “November”).

The heart’s loiterer resides where the poet has been recovering and dispersing it, in what he calls the “anti-toll booths” that he once left along an inter-coastal beach, as on the back cover of In a Low Country, where brown driftwood stood upright is crowned with white shells against the blues of water and sky. The image offers respite from a poetry overcome by plastic, by a poet who guards his hatred of cars and love of road trips, who dreams of full-spectrum human nourishment rooted in the organic specificity of geographic location: ‘rip something / from the heart of a tree’ (in “All Acceptable Forms of Payment”). The same poem tells of ‘raytheon / packages / of / pale / responsibility’, a compacted image of drone munitions delivered from the dry white West to shed ‘thick blood / bubbling fatter’, augur of the dinner bell.

At its most lyrically intense, In a Low Country reflects the poet’s effort to relocate himself into a confrontation with his complicity in the (undead) crimes against African peoples in the human labor camps of the Americas (the bondage-addiction model transplanted into lawful contemporaneity through the document called the US Constitution, at Amd 13). The biographical cipher crouching behind this poetry contains a gene map bearing plain evidence of antebellum rape, plotted against a map of the States, and frozen onto the outward screen of the psyche. The victims’ descendants are activated right down the line, in identified actual places, and thus indirectly enrolled into the poet’s dilemma. The chorus-like repetition of ‘human brands with my name’ (in “Charles Town”) testifies to the impossible gravity of history’s genetic narrative. A contradicted familial embrace piles lines atop one another uncomfortably, as in “10,000 Islands”: 'Flourescent swelling / Thick white evasion'. The poet shares a part of his blood with the children of his ancestor’s property, who he will feed for money, and whose forgiveness he doesn’t think he needs, but which he nevertheless quietly seeks, in the same life where he also strives for their tips.

But however much the poet disguises his intentions and means, righteous moral adventure can tilt into self-destruction, where the poet finds that ‘a hospital bill / is singing to me’ (in “Charles Town”), to one whose song was meant to lead him out of danger, to ward it off. Neither the poet’s ingenuity (nor his day job) can surmount our moral debt, it attracts only shreds of redemption’s likeness, however lit up by the bass drum situated on the top of the star of the east (horizon adorning...). The only redemption worth anything is the Earth’s, as human systems fail and danger generalizes. Now Kentucky, the poet’s home state, has been hit by two extreme weather disasters in less than a year (winter tornados in the West and flooding in the East). The lesser genre of lived redemption is found in the sort of negative coupon you may receive past the neutral brink of mortality, in an ICU, where the poet’s mental confusion materialises an uplifted carnivorous marsupial who gets correctly named and waits to escort him through a closure in the roof, while the ecclesiastic is sure that he’s been wrongly delivered into your presence, and he refuses to reveal to you that he is incapable of triangulating the relative criminality of your birthright. (The only prayer worth saying is for water from oil.)

The poet needs us to know the place his art comes out of: the unsurvivably idyllic and exquisitely-preserved Charleston, South Carolina, or the eponymous “Robert E Lee County, Florida”, where a fiberglass motorboat full of revanchists with flags breaks the silence of a supposed wilderness at a mangrove forest’s brink, disrupting the poet’s communion with the sapling on the cover of his book. Falsehood undergirt with arrogance hangs supreme atop the ‘conquered air’ of “Plastic Flood Plains”, another poem interspersed with chorus effects, whose title describes an alien geography in a first world where inhabitants of cities cannot allow running water to flow into their mouths. What burden on the elemental resource is relieved by the poet’s gulps of celestial aliment? We cannot know. And whatever in the unrecognizable name of the most high that means, our breath partakes of a radical finitude once suspended in a Plenty now no-longer imaginable.

Justin Katko, September 2022


Moody Elbarasi was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where he worked as a musician. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and works as a chef. In a Low Country was written between late 2020 and early 2022. It follows the author’s first collection, St. Beaumont Conservative Club (Critical Documents, 2012).