The poems in Rebecca Black's first volume, Cottonlandia, move through myth and landscape, beginning in the deep South's "shimmer and tar" and ending in the "soot and orange dolor" of the California desert. Cottonlandia conjures a proto-continent where fashionable golems pose for antique photographs and nineteenth-century naturalists wander into the melee of the civil rights struggle in the South.
By turns haunting and comic, Black's poems describe the archaeology of the apocalypse. Countesses leave behind poisonous snapshots, lovers examine their shapes in the mirror, and Seminoles return for skeletons arranged illegally in exhibits, even as floods force antebellum coffins to rise.
In the title poem, reproduced on this page, the lines of a spiritual splinter and circle through a loose narrative, evoking the delirium of class and race in the author's Georgia hometown. Throughout the volume, poems quarrel with primal forces, threading the needle of historical oblivion with a dark, intelligent, and incantatory voice.