The Dropped Hand is an attempt to create poetry that lives in the
face of loss. The poems in the second and third of the book's four
sections respond directly to two major strokes: the stroke that
robbed author Terry Blackhawk's father of his ability to read or
write and left him with a limited capacity for verbal expression;
and the cerebral hemorrhage that killed Blackhawk's mother not long
thereafter.Underlying the poems in The Dropped Hand is an unspoken
echo of Keats's famous fragment: "This living hand . . ." The
book's two central metaphors-the hand (the hand that plays or is
played, that signals, that makes music, that connects us to one
another) and the bridge of language and interaction-interplay,
bounce off, and resonate with one another throughout the book. The
bridge also spans water-the unconscious, the unifying mystery-which
is a recurring motif and connects the first and last sections of
the book.Blackhawk's poems display a range of form, including prose
poems, sonnets, sestinas, and invented forms. Elegy is a central
impulse of the poems in this book. Another is to heal, retrieve and
recover language-whether broken by grief or lost to stroke and
aging-to create in words something that will last. The first
section of the book ("Over the Stage") entwines motifs of animals,
art and spectacle-elephants, horses, turtles, and fish mix with
visual art, circus, theater, poetry, and film-with childhood,
preparing in a sense the way for the losses of the mother's music
and the father's language.Linda Gregerson writes, "Death gains on
us. It honors neither time nor place nor human quest for meaning.
Its emblem might be, as it is in these fine elegies, a dropped hand
of playing cards: 'abrupt and final / silence.' If that were all,
the bravery of the poet would be much, but Terry Blackhawk wrests
from this strict vista a powerful antithesis. With patience and
wisdom and, above all, with love, she crafts the vessel that
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