and then we became
San Francisco Chronicle
"major's poetry moves from San Francisco's Mission Street and the Tenderloin (she's a former San Francisco poet laureate) to Africa, and from there to the far reaches of the universe. It conjures ancestors, honors memories of mothers, daughters and sisters, and traces births, beginnings and the origins of all things, including language and poetry itself, which major frames as a shield, a sword and as a healing salve. . . . If readers aren't sure if they're meant to belong to major’s tribe, they likely will feel that this spellbinding, all-inclusive, all-embracing book initiates them. 'year of the dragon,' the third poem in the volume, might be the chant and hymn for 2016, as when major writes, 'it’s an abstract constellation we live in / knowing the clock will turn / at any moment.' Many of the individual poems in and then we became stand a good chance of becoming 'news that stays news,' to borrow the catchy phrase that the modernist poet Ezra Pound used to describe poetry itself."––Jonah Raskin
East Bay Times
"In poems notable for their directness and brevity, [and then we became] addresses an astonishing breadth of subjects: ethnicity, gender, homelessness, illness, aging, love, the cosmos and more."––Lou Fancher
"A granddaughter of immigrants, San Francisco's third poet laureate, and winner of honors from PEN Oakland and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, major wields language vibrantly yet shows how it can be used against the marginalized: 'we honor speech/ that can make us hate/ that can cause us to deny/ our mothers/ our brothers/ our self.' Yet she stands defiant. 'I did/ ask to be born,' she proclaims, elsewhere asserting 'we come to this city/ and we name it ours.' Not surprisingly, an especially strong section asserting a feminist perspective through stories (in particular, see 'amina's trial') is titled 'and then we became other selves.’ A fine spiritual and political reckoning for most readers."
"Four sections of this long-awaited volume: 'spirit', 'other selves', ‘fragile', ‘whole' reveal a writer and life experiencer at the height of her poetic powers. Whenever I become too self-satisfied in intellectual games, I find my heart upended by these impassioned verses of humanity and what it means to be fully alive and present. From 'nommo‑how we come to speak' to 'war memories', this former San Francisco Poet Laureate and worldly cosmonaut handles politics, war, and love in equal measure as the best poets of the people do. Pablo Neruda. Bob Kaufman, June Jordan. Wanda Coleman. Ears to the ground and eyes to the sky."––Giovanni Singleton
"In her fifth collection, poet and novelist major (The Other Side of the Postcard), a former San Francisco poet laureate, favors rich language and punchy lines as she ponders her place in the universe, and her relation to others similarly making their way. She captures emotions with economical precision, a trait that is evident in such poems as 'human,' a four-stanza ode to the grandiosity of the cosmos in which she notes, 'i am less than a microscopic speck/ on the edge of the universe's lens.' In the collection's second section, 'other selves,' major shows how people’s interactions with the outside world reflect their inner character. Her poem ‘brown lady in white' explores racial passing, through a character in what one could call white-face: 'she cannot become the/ whiteness she wraps around herself.' In the subsequent poem, ‘any name will do,' major speaks to the ways in which race complicates bonds of intimacy, her speaker expounding on how racism serves to sabotage sincere efforts to connect person to person. In the fourth and final section, the poems return to the mysteries of the universe, its vastness considered as infinite potential, rather than an uncrackable code. major ponders deep philosophical questions, but it’s in her more personal portraits that her poems really sing."
"Dipping into and then we became offers a quietly righteous respite from the muck of election-related opinion, emotional triggers, and binary arguments on a constant social media loop . . . Even the title of the book is a relief. and then we became is a reminder, a mantra to repeat daily; we are all in the process of becoming. Look around. How many people do you know that have arrived? What does it mean to arrive, to have somehow become what you were always meant to be, when even the universe, as major points out in the book's final poem 'Cosmology Meditation #2,' is 'omnicentric infinitely / expanding in all directions'? . . . Other poems in the collection travel between celebration and mourning, on a range of subjects: family, culture, social justice, ambiguity. The effect is equal measures celebratory and sorrowful. You aren’t going to find answers in these poems. Only reminders that we are all searching, living, breathing, struggling, dying. Some are born into legacies of racial and gender oppression. Others survive physical ailments: strokes, cancer, mass shootings. You know, the stuff of modern life in America."––Leilani Clark