Ivorian poet and writer Tanella Boni has been celebrated for decades, but The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn is her first book of poems to be translated into English. It is broken into two large sections, each laying out a provocative, imagistic narrative that speaks to the Ivory Coast's recent, brutal history. These sections are further broken into nameless, smaller poems.
Boni's writing, translated from the French by Todd Fredson, does not pause for punctuation, making sentences crash together, thoughts meld and images blur. Reading The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn feels a bit like looking into a kaleidoscope as an unseen hand turns the viewfinder to create new patterns and colors. But Boni is too skilled a poet to let her readers go far adrift. The second, shorter section of The Future, "A Murdered Life," contends with the brutal killing of a young man during the Ivory Coast's sectarian violence in 2000. There, Boni's words vividly depict the ruthlessness of her country's past. She describes the death in terse, harsh words: "Out in the open a man in uniform/ clubbed you/ in compliance/ you split at the temple like fruit." Whatever dreamlike imagery that has come before is silenced by the pain and death she brings to the forefront at this moment. The result is electric, a book where both gorgeous imagery and human cruelty arrest the reader, pointing them toward a perspective of the Ivory Coast that is personal, magical and true. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.