North Carolinian Alex Grant proved that he was a hell of a good poet with his award-winning 2006 Chains and Mirrors, and his 2008 chapbook, simply titled The White Book, does not disappoint in the slightest. It does, however, cover some new ground for Grant. While Chains and Mirrors focused on such timeless and universal themes as the transcendent beauty of the natural world, the epic scope of history, the importance of ritual and, most soberly, the inevitability of death, the bulk of the poetry in The White Book is speculative in nature. That is, it focuses on such "what if?" scenarios as: a mosquito's lust for a classier life (and nosh) as she travels from Phnom Penh to America "ripe with opportunity" (in "Blood Meal"); the chilling "Thread" describes the plight of spiders living in a household that a super species of gadfly have overrun; two DNA strands—one Catholic, one agnostic —debate the existence of God and the nature of the universe in "Continental Divides"; and the irreverent "Captain Scot's Lost Diary" gleefully imagines what Captain Titus Oates really might have done on that fateful arctic journey before famously saying, "I’m just going outside, and may be some time."
Six weeks in this tent, and we are all close
to breaking point. Captain Oates masturbates
constantly—even during dinner—he claims
it's simply a mechanism to keep his body temperature
up—though we all have our doubts. I no longer feel
comfortable shaking hands with him, and last night
he told me that he wants me to have his babies.
The White Book contains the same arresting language, startling imagery and attention to poetic tradition ("Sonnet for the Educated Cook" is a Shakespearean sonnet high on soft rhymes and low on cliché) that made Chains & Mirrors such a successful and praise-worthy book. It also showcases Grant's growth as a poet, illustrating his willingness to embrace new forms and address inspiring themes in different ways.
Causes Alex Grant Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center