Blood Ties & Brown Liquor
By Sean Hill
(University of Georgia Press, Paperback, 9780820330938, 96pp.)
Publication Date: March 2008
Categories: American - General
Sean Hill's debut collection, imaginative in the characters it invents and in the formal literary traditions it juxtaposes, is nevertheless firmly rooted in Hill's hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia, which he transforms into a poetic landscape that can accommodate the scope of his vision of collective and personal history. The poems create a call and response across six generations of family of the fictional Silas Wright, a black man born in 1907. As Hill takes on the voices and experiences of diverse characters in or connected to the Wright family, these individual glimpses add up to an intimate portrait of Milledgeville's black community across two centuries as it responds to stirring events both public and private.
From a slave woman's scratchy hay-stuffed mattress to a black insurance agent's sinister patter, from sweet honey to the searing heat of brickyard kilns, the poems make vivid the sensuous details of quotidian lives punctuated by love and violence. From pantoum to haiku, from high-toned lyricism to low-down blues, Hill uses language in all its many incarnations to speak deeply about both southern identity and African American community.
Sean Hill’s awards include fellowships from Cave Canem, the MacDowell Colony, the University of Wisconsin, and a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Ploughshares, DIAGRAM, Tin House, and numerous journals, and in several anthologies including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. He lives in Bemidji, Minnesota. More information can be found at www.seanhillpoetry.com.
"Milledgeville, Georgia, exists for most readers through the lens of one writer, a brilliant and famous white woman who lies in the cemetery's high ground, safely above the floodwaters. But lower down lie the buried citizens of another, less seen community. Sean Hill's songs are native to his town. Formally various, richly textured, they voice unwritten history with an acute sense of the deep sound of a place, the stream of blood and talk that courses through this writer's living hands."--Mark Doty, author of Fire to Fire: New & Selected Poems
"Sean Hill has given us a deeply moving fictive exploration—an excavation!—of the world that shaped him. Silas Wright is his personal entryway to the historical past and these fully realized lyrics are the forms of his poetic truth."--Edward Hirsch, author of Poet's Choice
"Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bishop: these are among the select few whose first books signaled a new vision of form and vernacular, an everyday elegance. We can now add Sean Hill’s transcendent debut to that remarkable list. With his blues and villanelles, his haibun and his 'quiet lore,' Hill 'greets the morning/with many tongues,' making the history of his hometown not just a living thing, but a song. Blood Ties & Brown Liquor is the real thing—a book to believe in.”--Kevin Young, author of For the Confederate Dead
"Hill sets his poems amid the beauty of the former state capital's crape myrtles and mockingbirds while simultaneously confronting the legacy of enslavement inherited by Milledgeville's black community. Blood Ties & Brown Liquor is an innovative collection of bluesy, meditative poems that is certain to mark Hill's emergence as a major new voice in American poetry."--Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Hill speaks in an authentic voice filled with brilliant imagery and powered by a steady blues beat. . . . . Hill's poetry debut marks the introduction of an authentic Southern voice that speaks for the African-American community and all native Southerners. Don't be surprised if this Georgia-born poet's eye for detail, his memorable imagery, and his talent for telling stories from the past earn him a place among the best poets of our time."--Athens Magazine