A Review of Stephanie Strickland’s Ringing the Changes

1 The wish that poetry might correct all this — may seem a forlorn dream, but work that transgresses the boundary between thought as act and thought as content accomplishes this by suffusion, resonance, radiation, radiance, microdosing, and the setting of almost inaudible spells may indeed be the locus where such hope resides (Strickland 13) Stephanie Strickland’s most recent work of poetry, Ringing the Changes, comes to us in 2020 — a year that is quickly becoming one of the most dystopic of recent memory. As of this writing, the world is in the quarantined and socially-distanced throes of a pandemic due to the novel coronavirus technically named “COVID-19.” In the United States, the location of this writing, we are revisiting the effects of a total vacuum of responsible leadership at our government’s highest levels, as the country softly “re-opens,” even as we crest 150,000 deaths with no sign of a nationwide “flattened curve.” Meanwhile, the economic disparity that has come to characterize the Millennial experience shows no sign of repair, and the global climate crisis continues to careen along its change-ridden path, despite the COVID memes proclaiming “nature is healing.” Alongside these satirically celebratory memes, Twitter and other social media networks are aflame as yet another Black life has been unjustly taken by police, this time belonging to George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s murder was caught live on camera — a visual that stands in particularly stark, powerful contrast to another video, this one captured in New York and featuring a white woman threatening to call the police and claim her life was in danger, after a Black man asked her to leash her dog in Central Park. These events have catalyzed weeks (as of this writing) of on-going protests against centuries of systemic racism and state-sanctioned violence by the police around the country, so that, now, these two videos are accompanied by images of the National Guard, militarized SUVs, tear gas, and rubber bullets pelting Black (and white) protestors taking to the streets around the country, armed with signs insisting that Black Lives Matter, and that we Say The Names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Geoge Floyd. The images of protests now stand in stark contrast to images that circulated not long ago of white protestors on the steps of government buildings around the country brandishing all manner of firearms and weaponry to demand the country reopen, despite the pandemic, while police stand idly by, restraining themselves from any kind of violent (re)action. In short, if ever there was a moment that we might wish or hope for poetry’s power of correction, it may be this one. And it is into this moment that Stephanis Strickland’s Ringing the Changes appears, a text that finds its power and poetics from systemically-designed, yet seemingly “random” juxtapositions of content. 2 Rodney King, Abner Louima, James Byrd, Amadou Diallo, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Eric Garner…(Strickland 5) …Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Demonstrating the powerful poetics of juxtaposition, this list of names evokes the history of white supremecist, state-sanctioned violence against Black people in the United States. Each name listed here recalls a Black life that was violently ended by the system of racist logic that undergirds and conditions US culture. In 1991, the temporal anchor of this list, this architectural system was wrapped in the scaffolding of post-racial colorblindness — a particularly insidious form of racism that, as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva writes, renders the explicit and overt racist systems of the pre-Civil Rights Era United States into covert, implicit systems. This shift has had the effect of strengthening white America’s willful … Continue reading A Review of Stephanie Strickland’s Ringing the Changes