Queer & dear: George Abraham’s “The Specimen’s Apology”

George Abraham’s The Specimen’s Apology was released earlier this year from Sibling Rivalry Press and is a glorious treasure. It’s chock full of art that adds beauty and depth, and it’s stylistically robust, which I was looking forward to after al youm.

These poems cover, as much of George’s work does, heritage, Palestinian-American identity, and place, themes which are both difficult to publish in today’s ever-increasing xenophobic climate, and which are so, so important and valuable to read. “we are taught, to have a body is to carry / its lineage inside of us” he writes. In “Post-Script: Against Consolidation“, he tackles the issues of land and war: “i want to write about my country & mean country… / something i didn’t have to cough out like praying with tiny flags caught in my teeth.” Both “[ counter/terrorism ]” and “ars poetica in which every pronoun is a Free Palestine” and achingly good; I read and mourn, read and hope, read and rage.

George is an expert poet; his poems are lyrical and burst with sound and delicious word choice. I am so grateful to look up to lines like “i found home      in your type     of empty” and “since this poem is about memory, it is discontinuous by necessity…”

He speaks to the humanity in us all with lines like “maybe i loved best the / rebellion of us” and “i know heaven / is a poem i survive / the end of…” He gets it, the multitude of contradictions, regrets, dreams, and concerns that make us human.

This review would not be complete without celebrating the unapologetically queer moments in this book: “Essay on Submission” sings with intimacy and complicated violence. In another poem, he writes, “he still // called me fucking queer & i have since / known queer to mean desire”. GodDAMN, George. Write on.

The scientific moments in this book — George is a genius and could talk circles around me about neuroscience and physics and the universe — are delightful, even if I’d need a manual on how to deconstruct them. There are charts, mathematical equations, pi, and 3D poem-play, and it’s fascinating. When something clicks for me, like the algorithm lines in “palestinian / queer specimen attempts to define an algebraic structure for his traumas”, it hurts.

George is clever and also innovative; throughout this collection, he coins new ways to combine two parts to become a greater whole.

The Specimen’s Apology is available from Sibling Rivalry Press for $15. I highly recommend it to readers and especially writers of poetry.

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