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Review for Oak Cliff-Hangers: Stories in a Snow Globe by Sherrie Zantea

Sherrie Zantea, known by her stage name, Candy, is a luminary in the Dallas poetry community. She is the brilliant leader behind the Dallas Poetry Slam organization and has been making literary history for more than 20 years. Her chapbook, Oak Cliff-Hangers: Stories in a Snow Globe (Deep Vellum Publishing, 2021) reflects on growing up in Oak Cliff with heartbreaking candor and soaring hope.

Sherrie Zantea, known by her stage name, Candy, is a luminary in the Dallas poetry community. She is the brilliant leader behind the Dallas Poetry Slam organization and has been making literary history for more than 20 years. Her chapbook, Oak Cliff-Hangers: Stories in a Snow Globe (Deep Vellum Publishing, 2021) reflects on growing up in Oak Cliff with heartbreaking candor and soaring hope.

The collection opens on a poem called “Oak Cliff/ That’s My Neighbor(hood),” dedicated to Shavon Randle, a 13-year-old murder victim in East Oak Cliff. Zantea performed this poem during her featured reading for Inner Moonlight, and these lines were particularly striking: “This is the Oak Cliff no one here talks about. / It’s 10% theaters, arts, eateries, and pie emporiums and 90% bail bonds, trap houses, and inconvenient corner stores. / There were no damn pies in my hood.” These poems create the “snow globe” of the past with stunning clarity, which is, of course, one of the most powerful things poetry can do—preserve a moment, a place, a feeling, a community, or an experience that is otherwise inaccessible, but is vitally important to understanding the present.

The opening poem is not the only piece with a dedication or an address to someone else. Zantea writes poems for other poets, her son, and other victims of violence. One particularly chilling piece is entitled “Letter to Carolyn Bryant,” the white woman who is responsible for Emmett Till’s murder. Carolyn Bryant is still living at the time of this writing. At the time of Zantea’s performance, news outlets were reporting the discovery of an unserved warrant for Bryant’s arrest. A grand jury in Mississippi declined to indict Bryant; the Till family and activists are still seeking justice. In the poem, the speaker says, “We haven’t seen your face, we haven’t seen your children, how are they? Your boys, do you have grandchildren? Do you watch them play, and wonder how they would look bloated in muddy waters?” This poem demonstrates another important purpose of poetry—speaking truth to power—and highlights the injustices pervasive in our culture.

For all its unflinching darkness, this book is also imbued with the promise of a life beyond that darkness. In “Self-Reflection, Part 2,” the speaker reminds us of the power and value of using one’s voice: “We will stand/ United/ Prepared to fight for our weak./ Speak for those who have been silenced. / We become everything the world told us not to be.” Zantea told me that she wrote this book with her young students in mind. While the book depicts violence and death, these realities are portrayed with the necessary honesty to give struggling young people a deep sense of hope. You can learn more about Zantea’s vision for the book by listening to the podcast episode, and of course, you should pick up a copy for yourself.

 

Podcast episode: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/albCnqI09vb

Book: https://store.deepvellum.org/products/oak-cliff-hangers

 

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Logen Cure is a queer poet and professor. She curates Inner Moonlight, the monthly podcast reading series for The Wild Detectives in Dallas. She's an editor for Voicemail Poems. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her debut full-length poetry collection, Welcome to Midland (Deep Vellum Publishing, 2021) was shortlisted for the Reading the West Book Awards. She lives in Dallas-Fort Worth. Learn more at www.logencure.com.

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