When Courtney Faye Taylor begins her stunning debut collection, Concentrate—sat between her aunties thighs, getting her hair pressed—I am immediately transported back to my own childhood. Adolescence is a time of innocence and curiosity, as well as a lesson in contrasts: the sting of beauty upkeep and the confidence of a fresh hair-do, the validation of attention and the safety of invisibility. From the book’s opening section, Taylor makes it clear that Concentrate will stretch the expanse of what a poetry collection is allowed to do.
A hologram is an illusion. You think you’re looking at something three-dimensional and lifelike, but what you see is only an image, a reconstruction of reality rather than reality itself. What could be a more fitting image to encapsulate the illusoriness, isolation and distance that pervade collective life in this post-truth, post-Covid era—one in which facts are subsumed by beliefs and a screen avatar can stand in for a physical body? In her most recent collection of poems, The Vanguards of Holography, Annie Christain creates a pervasive sense of disconnection and disembodiment.