Saida Agostini’s socially and spiritually aware poetry collection “Let the Dead In” focuses on the duality between love and hate along with the way that these concepts integrate and clash with each other through the lens of her black queer identity in a society riddled with violence, oppression, and the objectification of black people. Agostini leads the readers through three separate sections that exemplify these themes through the study of mythology with black antagonists, commentary on the crimes committed against black Americans, and personal stories through the lens of someone whose identity is a counterpart to those she discusses.
Agostini successfully juxtaposes stark images from her life with deeply entrancing metaphors, and most poignantly in her poem what love is she compares the images of turmoil she witnesses between her parents with a dead buck on the side of the road whose
“flesh ripped/exposing a dark black machine/so soft, stinking and fragile that years/later you’ll remember the risk of loving/something that wild”.
The author’s ability to display these powerful, and sometimes gruesome, epithets about life shines through in the entirety of her collection.
Besides her deeply evoking poetic interludes, Agostini displays the depth of her narrative ability by taking on the personas of the people she discusses who are associated with mythology and art along with those who have had unthinkable crimes committed against them in our modern-day world. By giving life and strength to these individuals through her words, the author not only empowers them above their oppressors, but gives them a voice when they would have remained voiceless. This sentiment can be seen through the poems: “the old higue goes hunting”, “moon-gazer”, “summoning the canaima”, “the ballad of recy taylor”, “Nude Study of a Black Woman, 1850”.
Readers are reminded consistently throughout the collection not only of the names of black Americans who have been subjugated and killed by white people of power, but of the exact crimes committed against them in footnotes at the bottom of the poems. Agostini does not let us veer from exactly what she wants us to see through her writing, inducing sentiments disturbingly beautiful and simultaneously teaching the reader about the extent of the crimes committed against black Americans throughout our history to the present day.
What the collection leaves its readers with is a thorough understanding of the individuals who are living in the very present world of deep-rooted prejudice against black Americans. Through this exploration, she provides an outlet for these ideas to reach an audience who can understand the depth of this impact. One of Agostini’s most prevailing lines of the collection can be seen in her poem Bresha Meadows Speaks on Divinity,
“god is a black/girl in love with living, a sacrament on how to be/disbelieved, forgotten and/rise a thousand times over”.
Let the Dead In is published by Alan Squire Publishing (www.AlanSquirePublishing.com)
Saida Agostini is a queer Afro-Guyanese poet whose work explores the ways Black folks harness mythology to enter the fantastic. Her work is featured in Plume, Hobart Pulp, Barrelhouse, Auburn Avenue, amongst others. Saida’s work can be found in several anthologies, including Not Without Our Laughter: Poems of Humor, Sexuality and Joy, The Future of Black, and Plume Poetry 9. She is the author of STUNT (Neon Hemlock, October 2020), a chapbook reimagining the life of Nellie Jackson, a Black madam and FBI spy from Natchez Mississippi. Her first full length collection, let the dead in(Alan Squire Publishing) was released in Spring 2022. A Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, and member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective, Saida is a two-time Pushcart Prize Nominee and Best of the Net Finalist. Her work has received support from the Ruby Artist Grants, and the Blue Mountain Center, amongst others. She lives online at www.saidaagostini.com
Robyn Hager is a writer, poet and reviewer for Lightwood. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley. Read a poem by Robyn Hager in this issue.