A multivoiced saga of devastation and rebirth in the Caribbean and Gulf Coast.
Conceived in the years before Hurricane Katrina and deeply influenced by its aftermath, Saltwater Empire is a brilliant assemblage of geographical metaphor expressed in original lyrics, text from The Tempest, and the voices of ravaged New Orleans residents. As McDaniel’s poems enter the ecological, political, and religious miasma of the Gulf Coast, they offer an uncommonly perceptive look at cataclysmic disaster, human cruelty, and cultural resilience.
2008 Book Sense Poetry Top Ten List (April)
“Raymond McDaniel’s language trains every particle of your attention on the surface and what stirs beneath.” —C.D. Wright
“Parts of this big, part-lyric, part-reportorial sequence transcribe things that post-Katrina residents say . . . [McDaniel] alternates the versified transcriptions with baroque post-Hart-Crane poems written around, about and to the history of the city, its slave-trade legacy, its layout, its music. . . . If this book doesn’t become one of this year’s big hits, I have no idea what will.” —Stephen Burt, Poetry Foundation blog
“Saltwater Empire is a tour de force of poetic metaphor that is as powerful as the waters that break through the levees and the hurricane that wreaks such cataclysmic devastation. Reading it, our senses are assaulted and at the same time captivated by its sheer energy and magnetism. . . [Special Powers and Abilities] is a brilliant poetic gloss on the world of the adventure comic.”—Galatea Resurrects
“This book is a post-traumatic bacchanal. The revelers are also mourners: they are witches, troubadours, and survivors speaking in one collective voice. They know that we, ‘survive not by force, but bliss. / Whatever’s uttered, all prayer remains this.’ These poems are prayers—or spells. I am enchanted.” —Rae Armantrout