Tonya M. Foster, A Swarm of Bees in High Court

(BELLADONNA*, 2015)

Illustration by Drea Cofield.

With stringent wit and sonic power, and a mighty set of syntactic hex wrenches, Tonya Foster tunes the language and brings out the I, the you, the us (the most underestimated words in my opinion in English) to spin the conjoined through pronominal association, to pulse, gather, and scatter. The swarm is a sustaining force.

Swarm is a masterpiece of the edit, re-edit, and refine. Re-looking and re-seeing the seen and scene setting to be seen again, as if the eye and I, and you and U, and the us must be parsed in the buzz, a “buzz, a blazon of want.” The words ache and are raked over, and the I, the you, the us, emerge from the indifferent pearl fog of a white page, coming out of the square tomb into legibility of sound and song.

Be low be lack, be ridge and grudge be longing be sotted be ramble and hold
be come and go; be rim and ram the ball into the basket.
be ram in the bush important
be stung, be ache be ring
be reft and reach over…

And you hear in those buzzing “be”s the basketball bounce against pavement’s hollow rings on the court across the street from Tonya’s apartment. You can hear the stutter, the existential stagger and conjugation of “to be” or not to B, the thinking over and against Cartesian shackles, in the seventeen syllables of prime (divisible by one and itself, and so indivisible).

In the “I am” and “I ain’t”—“you do/be” and “you don’t be,” the “she is no she” and the “I” and the “we” that roam these lines, we gather fragments of being reconstituted, re-invented by necessity, re-grounded in a Black Atlantic subjectivity.

In the “I am” and “I ain’t”—“you do/be” and “you don’t be,” the “she is no she” and the “I” and the “we” that roam these lines, we hear the coordinates of place, echoes in a Harlem nocturne, echolocations of the past migration into modernity.

In Swarm we read a chronicle, a cull, a calling into view and sound, the cycle of fragment and cohesion, part and whole, scatter and gather, charting the skirmishes between night music and Tonya’s nimble mind.

Contributor

Erica Hunt

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