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This Strange Land

Shara McCallum




Alice James Books

Publication Date:



"This Strange Land is a remarkably accomplished book, ranging from childhood to parenthood, Jamaica to America, in a way that feels integrated and organic. With mature hindsight, Shara McCallum revisits early experience with a piercing clarity (even in dialect, as in the wonderful "Miss Sally" poems), exposing its undercurrents in the present. Intimate, serious, and beautifully crafted, these poems scrutinize the griefs and beauties of familial life and memorialize them with meticulous care."—Chase Twichell

These poems probe the definition of Motherland. Shara McCallum homogenizes childhood memories of her native Jamaica with a revised understanding of danger and corruption, teasing out notions of history, language, motherhood, rupture, memory, and identity. She weaves new cloth of oral tradition, struggling to arrange a comfort zone within the foreign manufactures of suburbia. Hers is the skilled music of a master.

From "From the Book of Mothers":

What is separation's geography?

The mother's body is the country

of our earliest memory, the soil

from which we are formed.

Our lives are an arc of flight:

away, toward, away.

Shara McCallum is the author of Song of Thieves (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003) and The Water Between Us (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999). Originally from Jamaica, she lives with her family in central Pennsylvania, where she directs the Stadler Center for Poetry and teaches creative writing and literature at Bucknell University.

In This Strange Land, mother is an island treading water, a buoyed homeland beyond her homeland.

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Other editions: Softcover - 2003, Softcover - 1999

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