Taking its title from the descent into Hell in the opening passage of Homer’s Iliadand crowded brave souls into the undergloom”Prageeta Sharma's fourth collection chronicles personal and internal wars using the American frontier as a central metaphor to address questions of community and belonging, outsiderness, and the inevitability of a racialized self.
From "Will You Let Go For Ransom?":
And so deep was the fall, what a drop; I had nicks on my knuckles.
There is a passage of time for all of it to hold you, then you hold it,
you wring it by its neck,
it’s murderous and invisiblea darkling spot that grips.
And on some days, we would head to the barin the middle of the river,
the wail or the cries there found us.
Some colleagues had tears down each eye.
Some other colleagues made them cry.
We tried handing them words, but it all became inaccurate fast.
I held my purse in my fist.
Not sure if this was a place I could get mugged,
But I was reminded that it wasn’t. I was still unsure.
The first-generation child of a South Asian immigrant family and a native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Prageeta Sharma is the author of Bliss to Fill, The Opening Question (selected by Peter Gizzi for the 2004 Fence Modern Poets Prize), and Infamous Landscapes. She is also the recipient of the 2010 Howard Foundation Grant. Sharma is associate professor and director of the creative writing program at the University of Montana.