In McCrae's seventh collection, an angel, hastily thrown together by his fellow residents of Heaven, plummets to Earth in his first moments of consciousness. Jim Limber, the historically factual adopted mixed-race son of Jefferson Davis, wanders the afterlife, reckoning with the nuances of America's racial history, as well as his own, in a volume that contemplates purpose and atonement, freedom and forgiveness, and the nature of eternity.
Racial injustice, economic inequality, simple human cruelty—McCrae addresses all of these subjects, these facts of the world, head-on—while, like Dante, transposing the literal into the otherworldly ... Sometimes I Never Suffered uses its celestial motif not to escape this world but rather to bring it into sharper focus ... In the wrong hands, this sweeping flyover of human history might be too big to chew. But McCrae has no designs on totality: these moments are lyrical flashes, not summarizing instance ... One of the most paradoxical figures in American history—and perhaps the most compelling creation in contemporary poetry—Jim Limber speaks, often, in a voice that blurs the line between his own and McCrae’s. Even without an eye to the biographical synchronicity that, one guesses, must have drawn McCrae to Limber’s figure initially, Limber becomes—in this sequence—a kind of lyric mask ... These moments add up to a coherent vision—though by 'coherent' I don’t mean that they lack in conflict or paradox. At times it can feel as though McCrae works exclusively in the realms of paradox, double meaning, and oxymoronic play ... But McCrae’s penchant for paradox doesn’t amount to self-canceling opposition; rather, it seems, often, like the only way forward after such suffering.
... there is nothing potted about his unusual and unbridled poetry ... Inarticulacy becomes a form of eloquence in this exploration of being cast out and an outcast. In McCrae’s hands, poetry is reclamation. It is also transport: writing a way out and through ... The gain, for his readers, is that he has chosen to make poetry the public space in which to express—and to own—his inner life.
The stunning fifth book from McCrae...is steeped in the truths of witness and imagination ... poems that wrestle, doubt, and syntactically and rhythmically double-back on themselves ... These poems see the white world as it chooses not to be seen, and illuminate the contradictions, disappointments, and loneliness that comes with paying true witness ... each poem transcends with feeling, particularity, and honesty. This newest collection continues McCrae’s powerful examination into race, forgiveness, and meaning in America, making it an essential contribution to contemporary poetry.