* CBC Best Canadian Poetry 2021
The Garden by A. F. Moritz is a passionate denunciation of injustice, especially as seen in the violent injustice directed to the African diaspora in North America. Comprised of a long poem, “The Garden in the Midst”, and an in-depth essay, “The Poet’s Garden,” the book centers on the South Central Los Angeles “riot” of 1992 in response to the acquittal of police officers caught badly beating Rodney King in 1991. From this central point, the poem and essay reach out to encompass the May 2020 police murder of George Floyd, the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, and the long history of legalized criminal repression these two deaths belong to. Largely completed in 1992, Moritz returned to his manuscript in 2020 following the death of Mr. Floyd out of self-interrogation and grief. The Garden suggests that only the essence of poetry can prove antithetical antidote—if there can even be one—to this human crime and tragedy.
“How timely is A. F. Moritz’s timeless poem and its thoughts on the LA Uprising of 1992 – one in a continuing series! It’s a pleasure to leaf through this garden of verse and prose and see its defense of the human and humane. It is a dynamic work, and I can see the American in it – Emerson, Whitman, of course – but also William Carlos Williams’s Paterson, the Nerudian catalogues, even Dennis Lee’s Civil Elegies in the singing of the city.” – George Elliott Clarke
“How can we stop living in the past if it keeps recurring? A. F. Moritz’s The Garden undulates between justice and injustice, injustice and protest, agency and futility. Marigolds grow while the world burns. From Martin Luther King’s assassination to Rodney King’s beating to our present moment, Moritz renders the world as a loop, a skipping record, a track on repeat. We live in 1968 and 1992 and 2020 simultaneously. The past is always with us. He writes, “You were there / when they nailed him / with a knee / into the concrete.” Our accountability is our presence.” – Ian Williams