“In her third collection, Bashir (Gospel) displays an intriguingly multivalent approach to the objectivities and subjectivities of black experience reflected in her multimedia collaborations. A series of recurring “coronagraphs” become... [continued in Reviews below]”—Publishers Weekly
Field Theories wends its way through quantum mechanics, chicken wings, Newports, and love, melding blackbody theory (idealized perfect absorption vs. the whitebody’s idealized reflection) with live Black bodies. Woven through experimental lyrics is a heroic crown of sonnets that wonders about love, intent, identity, hybridity, and how we embody these interstices. Albert Murray said, “The second law of thermodynamics ain’t nothin’ but the blues.” So what is the blue of how we treat each other, ourselves, and the world, and of how the world treats us?
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Reviews / Endorsements
“In her third collection, Bashir (Gospel) displays an intriguingly multivalent approach to the objectivities and subjectivities of black experience reflected in her multimedia collaborations. A series of recurring “coronagraphs” become a tunnel through which the figures of John Henry and his wife Polly Ann speak, forming a sonnet crown that brings new life to an American myth...Bashir’s experimental visual gestures, such as a bullet-hole riddled prose poem on the law of probability, resonate as bluesy meditations on cosmic entropy’s presence in the irreversible occurrences of American lives. ...Whether depicting the faces of marginalized citizens at late-night truck stops or cross-sectioning “bloodstreaks through musculoskeletal structure,” Bashir positions the slings and arrows of black American life as both empirically observable and available for radical, and movingly layered, interpretations.”—Publishers Weekly
“There are pecks here, as units of measure for hidden sweetness. And dag! Dag is here, scatted at Detroit depth. Field Theories is flush with blue notes, swung in the exercise and exorcism of blue devils, the off minor, off spherical acoustics of “baby we won” and “not the father” are folded into the gravity of a unified feel, the beauty and violence of inseparable differences, some impossible someone’s arms. Our tongues are in the pitch black mouth she conjures and records. This is our music.” —Fred Moten
“Field Theories masterminds the “neverhush,” and each poem makes a spectacular event of artful speech that dances on the ridgeline of this brilliant poets’ history, heart, and intellect. And while she cuts to the quick, all swift-witted and informed, what I admire most is Bashir’s dexterous language, how she aligns our bodies to a vernacular sense of ourselves, knowing that the world is more than empty signs and algorithms, and that we need to ever engineer the widest possible love the world has ever seen.”—Major Jackson
“Samiya Bashir’s Field Theories is science as only poetry can be. She’s done her research and now she rethinks everything she gets her pen on: the relationship of dark matter to the sun, the possibilities of the heroic crown of sonnets, Keatsian aesthetics, social re- and inter-actions, and language itself. These poems are alive, are woman-truth, are burning darkly. Grab your shades. No: fire up your magnetosphere. This book is “black body radiation,” and you can’t handle it - but you’ve got to.” —Evie Shockley
“A lyric scientist at the top of her game, Samiya Bashir explores the emotional and cultural physics of desire, love, loss, family, history, and everyday existence in her new collection Field Theories. These inventive poems move across a range of psychicscapes, recentering black voices and bodies through blackbody theory and quantum mechanics, backyard meditation and bedroom lament. Bashir asks and shows with consummate artistry, what are the deep and hidden laws that divide and connect us?”—John Keene
“These poems resonate as code rising from caverns of the unexpected. When listening to their seeming irregularity one thinks of Dolphy's work where seeming fracture exists as portal to luminosity.” —Will Alexander
“Samiya Bahir's poems have a terrific edginess. Reclaim, notice, and repair through the exigencies poetry may present. That's a theory. Be an alchemist of the quotidian and you will survive. Another theory. Bashir's poems blend with sweet surprise in juxtapositions like “cumulonimbus snee-”. Quantum mechanics get ready. It is a trembling field this poet is traveling in.—Anne Waldman
“Interesting work; anyone who can combine woolly mammoths and the lyric “I’m gonna be your number one” in one poem knows her stuff.”—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal's "Exciting Poetry for Spring: 13 Highly Recommended Titles That Will Shock You Awake"
“There is an intuitive force and a soul to this collection, but there is also the shadow. The mind versus the body, light versus darkness, the individual versus society, and how we measure them all —all of which are very alive throughout each section, either through her exploration of properties or characteristics, “life space,” and the behaving selves.”—Lambda Literary
“This book splits the sky right open, swinging like a melody, swinging like a boxer, swinging on each elemental and freighted word to beat the devil.” —D.A. Powell
From the Book:
John Henry's first real swing —
I stood hungry near dead and the man said
my hammer'd give us shelter keep us fed.
That's what he said. But instead I was drove
up these craggy mountain roads. I was gave
another hammer and a crust of bread
and not-enough slop to anger my plate.
I ate what I could. I practiced on wood.
I split rocks as the nights stretched long. I chipped
blocks of ice when I couldn't sleep. Couldn't
keep — listen — whether it kills me later
or now I'm gone. I know how. I know why.
I got these forty pounds of fire-bolt the
color of sorrow smoked eyes that I lift
and drop. Lift and drop. Lift and drop. Lift and —
SAMIYA BASHIR’s previous books include Gospel, Where the Apple Falls, and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art. She lives in Portland, Oregon.