I picked up Thylias Moss’s Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky through a variety of reading challenge tasks (Read Harder’s read a book of nature poems, Read Women’s tasks about a book about the natural world, a collection of poetry by a black woman), book club squares (Going with The Wilds), and some internet sleuthing. While I find it difficult to review poetry, I can tell you that I agree with the book’s blurb, it is a powerful book with poems that present the black American experience with a heightened intensity. The language both brings the reader incredibly close, but also can fling you to the stratosphere, viewing from far above. There is an immediacy in the language that Moss uses that kept me engaged from poem to poem – something I struggle with as a reader. The poems themselves have conflicting elements that come together to reflect the truth Moss is interested in pursuing: that we exist within chaos. While not all poems in this collection are specifically about nature, you can see Moss illustrating the differences in experience between white Americans and black Americans, specifically what nature means to women descended from slaves versus those descended from slave owners.
Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky is celebrating its 30th birthday this year as a 1991 National Poetry Series selection. The National Poetry Series is a literary awards program that sponsors the publication of five books of poetry each year, since the late 1970s. The goals of the program are to meaningfully add to the number of poetry books published each year, making possible books which might not otherwise be published. Heightening poetry’s visibility among readers, and giving American poets, of all ethnic and racial groups, gender, religion, and poetic style, access to publishing outlets not ordinarily available to them.