Cover Image: Spectral Evidence

Spectral Evidence

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Many of the poems in here took me aback. I loved the author’s voice and the diversity of topics he tackled; at the same time, it felt like a cohesive collection. My thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an arc copy.

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Definitely poetry to be studied!! I’m rarely so grateful for an introduction, it was really eye-opening and powerful in itself, and of course really enhanced my understanding of these poems. “Spectral evidence” stems from the Salem Witch Trials and refers to when when people cite someone’s spirit (physically or an imagined intention) conspiring against them. It often led to convictions, much like the evidence we accept in trial against Black Americans or as reasoning for their murders by police. This collections is made up of really unique and powerful poems written as plays, pulled from historical documents, and more. Sometimes it was so referential I got lost, and more often than is usual I had to look up words which pulled me out of the poem. I will be thinking about this one for a while and want to read more of Pardlo’s work!

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In January, Knopf published Gregory Pardlo’s Spectral Evidence. “Spectral evidence” is an actual legal term referring to “witness testimony that the accused person's spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her in a dream at the time the accused person's physical body was at another location.” Huh? Yes, I am serious. And so is Pardlo. This kind of evidence was accepted during the Salem Witch Trials. Pardlo’s poems brilliantly explore this notion as he brings forward the fear of “the other” not only in terms of gender but also of race—America’s continual projection and demonization. Pardlo’s poems takes us through history, the big injustices alongside the microaggressions of today. Here is his wonderful poem “Theater Selfie”:

Congratulations, Gregory!

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Gregory Pardlo’s poetry engages history and myth effectively to illustrate his view of life as a Black man in American. While I haven’t read his previous work, I was impressed by the depth of this poetry. It’s definitely worth a read for anyone interested in thoughtful contemporary African American poetry. (ARC provided by NetGalley) (Posted on Goodreads)

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I’ve already raved about this in my stories but it deserves a post.

I picked up a bunch of poetry ARCs in November and was stoked to see Spectral Evidence by Gregory Pardlo.

I first was introduced to Gregory Pardlo’s Digest through the Literary Disco podcast (RIP to my fav book podcast). It was incredible, smart, and maybe a touch over my head which to b fair ai like about poetry sometimes because it makes you feel but also think.

This new collection, Spectral Evidence, though is exquisite. Spectral evidence is the evidence that was given at witch trials, it was supernatural evidence. Like so and so was in my dreams which meant they were probably a witch and that was enough evidence. He compares this to the evidence given about Black men and women who have been killed by police. Evidence is given like “their eyes looked demonic” or they were somehow supernaturally stron, in order to justify the wrongful killing of Black people by police.

This collection explores those connections and the research Pardlo did on this topic. Standouts in this collection to me were exordium, narratio, confirmatio, confutation, digression, and know yourselves (but also all of them 😂😍).

It is out now. If you like poetry I highly recommend picking up this incredible poet. Also if you are in Sac or SJ I’d happily lend my collection of Digest.

Thank you @netgalley and @aaknopf for my ARC in exchange for an honest review!

#spectralevidence #gregorypardlo #netgalley

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Spectral Evidence: Poems by Gregory Pardlo

The poets know. I treasured this book of poems. I have so many highlights from the book.

Tall Poppies is my absolute favorite poem in this book. It says so much in just 2 pages. A Callarse (To Keep Quiet) by Pablo Neruda meant so much to me I printed it and kept it close. Tall Poppies has that same effect.

My other favorites are
[Sonnet] – if you don't know, now you know, this data has been around for centuries and yet it still plagues our health system
Epistemology of the Phone Booth
Theater Selfie
Trigger Warning

This is my 4th book for #24fo24

I received an advance review copy for free from NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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This is a challenging, formally-inventive collection of poems; their structures include an academic study, a play, and a poem paired with its intense interrogation. They are fierce in their engagement with race and gender, and ask the audience to engage intellectually as well as emotionally.

Thanks to the publisher, the author, and Netgalley for my free earc. My opinions are all my own.

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✨ Review ✨ Spectral Evidence: Poems by Gregory Pardlo

While I'm far from being a poetry enthusiast, I try to read at least a few volumes of BIPOC-authored poetry each year. I appreciate all the layers of meaning in the poems that I see, even if I don't always understand them all...and Spectral Evidence has LAYERS. There were a fair numbers of poems in this collection that went completely over my head....BUT THEN, the poems that I understood resonated DEEPLY with me.

The book is cerebral and deep and emotional and personal and clever, all at once. His introduction links together the idea of "spectral evidence" from the Salem witch trials to the type of evidence used by police who've used deadly force against Black Americans. "This book is about the legal means by which fear--the fear of one who has more privilege than the person feared--has been used to rationalize the execution of those thought to be in league with the devil. A similar logic is used to rationalize the extrajudicial killing of Black and Indigenous people in post-Reconstruction America."..."This is a book about my search for evidence, evidence of mental habits that run counter to the values I hope to express in the world.

The book contains a range of pieces including some that are a little longer and more free form. Some appear more like a script or a collection of thoughts, and the form of these poems really captured my attention.

A few favorites:
⭕️ Know Yourselves: a poem about a student who once confronted him while speaking about the progress of his character and identity. A few favorite phrases: "As if to write poems is to go tiptoeing like the Hamburglar through the archives of my childhood." and "What if we didn't define ourselves according to our ability to know ourselves, but by our capacity to relate to others? Then we'd be a reflection of the people we let in."
⭕️ "Supernatural Bread" and "Theater Selfie" both speak to the ways the history of slavery is actively oppressed.. "America even wants to pretend slavery never happened and that there's no trauma woven into the social fabric."
⭕️ Trigger Warning juxtaposes the deadly force used against Black boys who are perceived to be dangerous, who are perceived to be holding weapons, even when just finger guns with the Alec Baldwin on-set shooting of a staff member. "The bullet is the messenger. The bullet is the message."

Genre: poetry
Pub Date: 30 Jan 2024

Thanks to Knopf and #netgalley for the gifted advanced copy/ies of this book!

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Thank you to Netgalley, Gregory Pardlo and Penguin Random House for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Spectral Evidence explores some heavy topics, including racism, sexism, judgment, prejudice, and the systemic trauma that is built in to the fabric of american society. Stories are told in the form of poems, prose, a play, and even at one point, a chart that described what percentage of americans believed certain sterotypes about black people. The title is based on the kind of evidence that was accepted during the Salem witch trials.

I think this is a very important book, and I am extremely grateful it exists, but I personally found it hard to follow at times. Although I will say that some of the poetry I liked quite a lot. There was one line that talked about the inverse relationship between a person's self-restraint and their ability to silence victims, that was just...well...WOW.

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This was an interesting and different poetry collection on the power of fear against the other. All the poems were different, some were genre-bending (one in the form of a play), I didn't vibe with them all but there were a few that stood out to me.

Favorite poems: "confutation", "The Marion Devotions", "Trigger Warning", "Spectral Evidence".

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Rating: 4.5/5 (rounded up)

(Gifted a copy on NetGalley in exchange for a review)

What are we afraid of? How do we all agree on what that subject of fear is? How does the past help us, or fail to, understand these questions? “Spectral Evidence”, a poetry collection by Gregory Pardlo tackles the past, racism, grief, and the dangers of knowing or failing to know. It’s a massive task, but Pardlo manages an excellent exploration through a variety of poems, plays, and images to make some striking points.
From witch hunts to police violence and then into personal family life, this collection covers many places and times. Pardlo’s prose ranges from simple to abstract, as broad and intriguing as his topics. “The future is a palagrized memoir” he writes as he tries to reason out who can palagrize it and whose memoir it is. The reader is encouraged to ask themselves the same questions. There may not be easy or even available answers, but the process is partially the point. I do feel that there were moments where the collection went a bit too broad, but the ambition is impressive even as every part of the project comes together. Some examples of themes clicked better than others and, while not required and googling it might very well be the point, some more context on the historical poems would have been helpful. Even the better known ones took a moment for me to realize the topic of. I do acknowledge that my own experiences shaped my ability to recognize them though.
Given the subject material and the sheer range of topics Pardlo is covering, this can be a weighty read. However it is a rewarding one, particularly if you can read it in its entirety the first time around. Poetry lovers should pick this up whenever they get the chance.

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I found the overarching theme of connecting historical "spectral evidence" to the violence against African Americans profoundly intriguing. The introduction was AMAZING--if the entire collection had maintained the style and engagement of the introduction, it would've been an easy 5 stars. However, I found many of the poems a bit lacking in their depth. My favorite poem of the collection is "Partition," due to its emotional resonance and insightful exploration of writing about ancestral trauma. The message hit especially hard, especially after just reading Nam Lee's collection that explored similar topics. Overall a great read. Highly recommend.

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf for my eARC. All thoughts were my own.

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I found the idea behind Spectral Evidence to be really fascinating--drawing a connection between "spectral evidence" used in the Salem Witch Trials and supposed "fear" that has been used to justify violence and killing of Black Americans. I overall found these poems very interesting; however, I must admit that some of the poetic language went way over my head. Would probably be better to approach this collection as someone who has more experience with contemporary poetry than myself! Some of the poems have been described as "cerebral", which I would agree with, but I definitely preferred the more personal ones. My favorite poem was "Occult".

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While examining my school library's collection, I noticed we need more poetry books so when Knopf offered a preview list I knew I had to read at least one of the books. I selected this book because of the variety of historic references in the poems. I was hoping this could be a good book to suggest to English, especially during Poetry week where students come down to the library to read poems they wrote and poems that call to them. I have already recommended it to one teacher and hope to purchase it for my library collection.

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Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf for the ARC!

Poetry is often instinctual or academic, and "Spectral Evidence" leans toward the latter while not betraying the former. This is a book that feels intensely researched, and Gregory Pardlo offers almost too much history for the reader to process. Maybe that’s the point—the full weight of the issues is felt when it’s impossible to compartmentalize or reduce it.

I think the best poetry moves the reader in some way, and this book is one that will doubtless move people to read more. I especially found the comparison between Teresa Avíla and Lindsay Lohan moving, but more than that—it made me aware of how little I knew about much of the book’s subject matter. I finished with countless notes about things I wanted to look up and lines I wanted to revisit, and I’m sure many readers will have a similar experience.

I also really enjoyed the book’s introduction, which is a thoughtful walk through the book’s guiding premise. It immediately alerts the reader to how intentional this collection is. Similarly, the poems themselves are dense in a way that encourages readers to spend time with them.

For readers who might be on the fence about diving in, I encourage them to read the paired poems “Question and Answer” and “Know Yourselves.” Here is where Pardlo directly interrogates his responsibility both to himself and those impacted by the history and politics he invokes, and I think they complement the introduction in laying out a better understanding of the book’s thesis.

Overall, a great collection. I hadn’t read anything by Gregory Pardlo, but this instantly bumped his memoir to the top of my reading list.

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I really enjoyed the premise of this book and based on the preface alone, thought it would be an easy win for me. While I enjoyed the genre-busting nature of this collection, it was lacking for me on thematic execution.

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The first thing I noticed about this collection was Pardlo's love for language. Many of these poems just beg to be read out loud. The way he plays with language is so delicious and the sounds jump from the page. At times, I felt like this collection wasn't "for me"--rich with art history and references to historical names that were not familiar to me, I felt like I was in a bit over my head and/or out of my league, as if this poetry collection was written for someone with a different academic background--but what a beautiful invitation it was to do my research as a reader and create context for Pardlo's work. None of it was difficult to search for, and stepping out of the poem to go the extra length and have the reference at hand added tremendously to the overall reading experience. This collection covers so many bases but ties them all together beautifully. Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.

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Thank you NetGalley and Knopf for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

“This book is about the legal means by which fear—the fear of one who has more privilege than the person feared—has been used to rationalize the execution of those thought to be in leagues with the devil.”

Spectral Evidence is a collection of intellectually pretentious poetry at its best. These poems are like brain caviar, rich but an acquired taste. If you can endure this vernacular jungle gym, you will find gems of knowledge and perspectives worth holding on to.

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I read 60% before not finishing. I enjoyed some of the poems, but sometimes it was difficult to figure out what situation the poet was writing about.

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Overall, a good collection.

Pardlo is very lyrical in the way he writes each poem to construct a scene. The timeline was hard to understand and some poems needed double readings to truly grasp their meaning.

Thank you NetGalley for the advance reader edition.

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