Deeply cross cultural, humanitarian, political and global poems about how humans deal with suffering across the world. These are poems about cultures rubbing up against each other, war, refugees, child soldiers, spiritual refugees trying to find a home, and a mother who is witnessing these firsthand. Rare ethnographic poetry by a world traveling cultural anthropologist and human rights activist.
There is no question that Kusserow, a professor of cultural anthropology, is well-versed in the conceit illustrated by her new book that "the suffering of Kenya begets Uganda,/ begets my husband,/ begets me, begets Ana, begets her brother " And from one perspective, Kusserow has taken a risk, bridging the experience of Sudan during its civil war, with that of Vermont, where a crow picking at compost triggers a reverie: "suddenly I knew how war/ must feel on the earth's beleaguered back,/ the constant pecking." Sometimes, however, Kusserow's use of a simile and moralistic analysis to describe the brutalized population of a faraway place (a "freshly pummeled" woman "lies like pounded meat in the gutter"; boys walking a thousand miles to safety are "packs roving like hyenas") undermines her subject matter. At its best, this book asks how to make poetry from sufferings of others. Would refugees tell their stories how we tell them? Is a secondhand telling, exoticized, tantamount to a second banishment stories rent from those who lived them? Kusserow could go deeper than she has to address these questions.