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Wayne State University Press

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The Dropped Hand

Terry Blackhawk


Published: January 2011
ISBN: 9780979750946
Pages: 88 Size: 6 x 9

The Dropped Hand is an attempt to create poetry that lives in the face of loss. The poems in the second and third of the book's four sections respond directly to two major strokes: the stroke that robbed author Terry Blackhawk's father of his ability to read or write and left him with a limited capacity for verbal expression; and the cerebral hemorrhage that killed Blackhawk's mother not long thereafter.

Underlying the poems in The Dropped Hand is an unspoken echo of Keats's famous fragment: "This living hand . . ." The book's two central metaphors-the hand (the hand that plays or is played, that signals, that makes music, that connects us to one another) and the bridge of language and interaction-interplay, bounce off, and resonate with one another throughout the book. The bridge also spans water-the unconscious, the unifying mystery-which is a recurring motif and connects the first and last sections of the book.

Blackhawk's poems display a range of form, including prose poems, sonnets, sestinas, and invented forms. Elegy is a central impulse of the poems in this book. Another is to heal, retrieve and recover language-whether broken by grief or lost to stroke and aging-to create in words something that will last. The first section of the book ("Over the Stage") entwines motifs of animals, art and spectacle-elephants, horses, turtles, and fish mix with visual art, circus, theater, poetry, and film-with childhood, preparing in a sense the way for the losses of the mother's music and the father's language.

Linda Gregerson writes, "Death gains on us. It honors neither time nor place nor human quest for meaning. Its emblem might be, as it is in these fine elegies, a dropped hand of playing cards: 'abrupt and final / silence.' If that were all, the bravery of the poet would be much, but Terry Blackhawk wrests from this strict vista a powerful antithesis. With patience and wisdom and, above all, with love, she crafts the vessel that counters dissolution."

Published by: Lotus Press

Terry Blackhawk is the executive director and founder of InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit. Her collection of poetry, Escape Artist, was the winner of BkMk Press's 2002 John Ciardi Prize.