The 44th of July offers a crushing critique of the current moment: the breakdown of human feeling and the rise of violence; the global flows of materialism and counter-circulation of refugees; the awful way we whistle while our pretense of democracy burns. But its poems trace these crises with irresistible exuberance and creativity. You will savor Bolina’s ability to walk a thread of language like a tightrope across time and space; you’ll wonder at the bizarre yet familiar worlds his inventive sentences create and inhabit. Jump aboard this merry-go-wrong . . . and hold on.
This is a gifted poet and a thinker. There’s so much music in all of these poems and most importantly, the music seems essential to the material of the poems, essential to their making and movement. The music makes the poems speak more urgently; the music escalates these poems in their symbiosis with materiality. Yes, these are “political poems” but they are more than that—these are poems that are so well made that they sing; they roll off your tongue and strike through your soul. Listen (from “Supremacy”): “the xenophobe fretful I’m somewhere/near, honing my chopsticks, loading/my tortas, my name writ in Gurmukhi,/he fidgets wakeful, fearful I’m awake also/reciting a scripture ruthless as his is/and I am. I am awake and singing.”
Jaswinder Bolina remains a sincere poet of necessary ironies, and The 44th of July is his opus, his ode to how well our nation falls apart in front of us. Or, I should say, this book is a proper chronicle of how the ideal of America was never really made whole for all whom it claimed: ‘You’ll need/new things you can’t even begin/to Costco, to crate or to barrel./Forget now your kitsch and granite/kitchen, your home depots/and free peoples, the soft power/of a staycation and owning/…the streetlights of your town./This is not your town. Nobody/here woos you…’ These Whitmanian litanies and lovely long sentences mean to include the excluded and even to afford for delight where evil thrives. This is a brilliant book by a masterful poet.