Devonte Travels the Sorry Route, by T.J. Anderson III
Devonte, the eponymous subject of the poems in Devonte Travels the Sorry Route, has a gift: he can travel across space and time. This extraordinary quality brings Devonte into contact with a broad array of events and phenomena from black history and culture. Unlike most of us, who perceive of history as a sequence of fleeting events, Devonte is able to experience all of his diverse travels to varied historical epochs and places simultaneously, and in doing so is able to become a “stalker of history,” chasing down the elusive narratives that have been erased or ignored by the building of empires and the destruction of ecosystems.
As fantastical as this account seems, in these poems, T.J. Anderson III captures a critical aspect of the ways identity is formed through community and collective memory, particularly among the peoples of the African diaspora. The way the words expand across the page enacts this polyvocal coalescing, and the blank space in between evokes the vast oceans that first separated and continue to resonate in the collective imagination of the Black community. At the same time that he relates the difficulty of crossing vast expanses of time and space to connect with our history, in these gripping poems Anderson proposes that the past is never far off—in fact, like Devonte, it lives in our own personalities and experiences today.