MacNolia Cox won the Akron District Spelling Bee, and at the age of 13 she became the first African American to reach the final round of the national competition. The Southern judges, it is thought, kept her from winning by presenting a word not on the official list. The word that tripped MacNolia, ironically, was qnemesis.q When she died 40 years later, the girl who qwas almost/ The national spelling champq had become a cleaning woman, a grandmother, and qthe best damn maid in town.q Cox's ambition and her later frustration find incisive shape in this remarkably varied meditation on ambition, racism, discouragement and ennui, where successive pages can bring to mind a handbook of poetic forms (a double sestina, Japanese-inspired syllabics, a blues ghazal and prose poems based on definitions of prepositions), Ann Carson's qTV Menq poems, Rita Dove's Thomas and Beulah and the documentary film Spellbound. Jordan (Rise) begins in Cox's later life, giving voice to her husband, John Montiere, at qThe Moment Before He Asks MacNolia Out on a Date, q then to MacNolia herself when in 1970 her son dies just after his return from Vietnam. As counterpoints, Jordan intersperses poems about African-Americans who won more lasting public acclaim, among them Richard Pryor, Josephine Baker and the great labor organizer and orator A. Philip Randolph. Jordan's most quotable poems, however, return to the voice of the 13-year-old speller, who qlearned the word chiaroscuro/ By rolling it on my tongue// Like cotton candy the color/ Of day and night.q (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. Library JournalJordan (Rise) begins in Coxa#39;s later life, giving voice to her husband, John Montiere, at aquot;The Moment Before He Asks MacNolia Out on a Date, aquot; then to MacNolia herself when in 1970 her son dies just after his return from Vietnam.
|Author||:||A. Van Jordan|
|Publisher||:||W. W. Norton & Company - 2004|