In his brilliant, expansive second volume, Whiting Award–winning poet Roger Reeves probes the apocalypses and raptures of humanity—climate change, anti-Black racism, familial and erotic love, ecstasy and loss.
The poems in Best Barbarian roam across the literary and social landscape, from Beowulf’s Grendel to the jazz musician Alice Coltrane, from reckoning with immigration at the U.S.–Mexico border to thinking through the fraught beauty of the moon on a summer night after the police have killed a Black man.
Daring and formally elegant, Best Barbarian asks the reader: “Who has not been an entryway shuddering in the wind / Of another’s want, a rose nailed to some dark longing and bled?” Reeves extends his inquiry into the work of writers who have come before, conversing with—and sometimes contradicting—Walt Whitman, James Baldwin, Sappho, Dante, and Aimé Césaire, among others. Expanding the tradition of poetry to reach from Gilgamesh and the Aeneid to Drake and Beyoncé, Reeves adds his voice to a long song that seeks to address itself “only to freedom.”
Best Barbarian asks the reader to stay close as it plunges into catastrophe and finds surprising moments of joy and intimacy. This fearless, musical, and oracular collection announces Roger Reeves as an essential voice in American poetry.