What are the forces that cause us to strike out and harm each other? Captivity explores the way in which the individual is held hostage by society; how the forces of racism, sexism, and classism frequently express themselves as violence within the family. The book also explores a deeper captivity, like the Jews in Egypt yearning for the Promised Land, the soul trapped in exile from God.
Captivity is a work of deep power and music. In the title poem, the speaker's uncle displays animal pelts, blowing on the fur to show us its 'shining underlife.' Toi Derricotte's poems show us our underlife, tender and dreadful. And they are vibrant poems, poems in the voice of the living creature, the one who escaped—and paused, and turned back, and saw, and cried out. This is one of the most beautiful and necessary voices in American poetry today.
There are poems that stick with you like a song that won't stop repeating itself in your brain, poems whose cadences burrow into your bloodstream, orchestrating your breathing long before their sense attaches its hooks to your heart. Even after you think you've got a handle on a particular passage—how that imagery works to support the narrative, the interlocking patterns of the observed adn the unsaid—something elusive keeps sending you back to the page; and with each new reading, another layer of mystery will gently exhale and open up. Much like a favorite grandparent's parable-disguised-as-an-anecdote, the poem will unofld when you need it but least expect it, illuminating its revelations as you grow into the lessons life has to offer.
Toi Derricotte is the author The Undertaker’s Daughter and four previous poetry collections: The Empress of the Death House; Natural Birth; Captivity; and Tender, winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors. Derricotte is cofounder of Cave Canem, professor emerita at the University of Pittsburgh, and a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.