Category: Book Buzz
Published: 03 July 2014
The Speed of Our Lives by Grace C. Ocasio
"Grace Ocasio’s poems embrace their subjects with a photographic clarity and a chic sense of style. Whether she is mining 'the unmistakable depth' of Garbo’s face, or musing in wonder at Angela Davis’ hair, 'more lavish/ than a Carmen Miranda headpiece,' she taps into the iconic power of her images in order to draw strength from them and offer it to us. These bracing poems celebrate everything from nature to history, to the family, to the famous—and in each, she discovers the music and meaning that lets them bloom in all their strangeness and surprise."
"These are wonderously wrought and craftwise poems!—but 'crafty' too. Grace Ocasio’s new collection, The Speed of Our Lives, is cleverly disguised in the formal and biographical. Within, you’ll hear Holiday’s voice, Garland’s, but, most of all, listen for Grace Ocasio’s marked song of rugged spoken-out-ness. I warn you: these are smart poems, but the facts ain’t always the truth, so watch out for this poet’s storied, brave, slant-light."
&mdsah;Kate Knapp Johnson
"One has only to read the Acknowledgements Page to realize the astonishing breadth of Grace Ocasio’s interests and the variety of places her work has been published as well as awards she has won. The Table of Contents is equally impressive, showing poems embracing myth, history ancient and modern, happenings worldwide and close to home, characters from many cultures. The first section alone focuses on Ruth and Naomi, Esther, Pocahontas, Anne Frank, Audrey Hepburn, Angela Davis, Michelle Obama, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and Alondra de la Parra. Research can provide facts about these people, but only the powerful imagination of the poet can recreate their world and take us back with her into their lives."
The collection The Speed of Our Lives consists of four sections: Sheroes, She Revolutionary, Princes and Privates, and Patriots. The first section features famous women (celebrities and non-celebrities alike). The second section explores the poet’s relationship to others whether strangers or family members. More varied in perspective than the first two sections, the third section focuses primarily on historical figures (all male) as well as animals and plants. In the fourth and final section, the poet uses race as her subject matter, examining how race has impacted the lives of black men in particular, from the famous to the not-so-famous (members of her family).
A former two-year college English instructor, Poet/Performer Grace C. Ocasio lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, Edwin, and her daughter, Chloe. Twice a finalist for the Rash Award in Poetry (2010, 2013), Grace C. Ocasio is a recipient of the 2014 North Carolina Arts Council-funded Regional Artist Project Grant Award. She won honorable mention in the 2012 James Applewhite Poetry Prize, the Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka Prize in Poetry in 2011, and was a scholarship recipient to the 2011 Napa Valley Writers' Conference. She also won second prize in the James Larkin Pearson free verse category of an annual poetry contest sponsored by the Poetry Council of North Carolina in 2008.
Her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Earth's Daughters, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Court Green, phati'tude Literary Magazine, Obsidian, Blast Furnace Press, Broad River Review, the North Carolina Literary Review, and other journals. Her chapbook, Hollerin from This Shack, was published by Ahadada Books in 2009. She has also published essays in other publications including The Charlotte Observer and InterRace. She is a Soul Mountain Retreat fellow and Frost Place alumna. She also served as a reviewer for the online writers’ resource, The Review Review in 2008 and 2009.
Currently, she serves as a contributing editor for Backbone Poetry Journal. She is a member of the Association of Writing and Writing Programs, the Carolina African American Writers' Collective, the North Carolina Poetry Society, the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and the Charlotte Writers' Club. She has read at venues that include the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina; North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina; the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut; the East Bay Meeting House in Charleston, South Carolina; UNC Chapel Hill's Bull's Head Bookshop in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and the Sensoria Festival at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, her MA in English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and her BA in Print Journalism and English from Howard University, graduating cum laude.