We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


A researcher friend of mine told me that during the Renaissance, when sugar was being imported to Europe, wealthy aristocrats would throw white sugar parties. Servants strolled about, carrying platters with mounds of white sugar for guests to snort and get high off. Whether this is truth or confabulation, sugar seduces, and having gone cold turkey once, I can attest to its addictive powers. In Brenda Hillman’s latest book of poetry, Loose Sugar, words scatter across the page like grains sprinkled by hand. Fragments appear alone or at the page’s bottom—stray crystals here and there. Hillman writes Whitmanesque odes such as “Male Nipples” (“How the beautiful boys’ nipples in the pool/in Arizona looked/”underwatery”—pennies which have been thrown in”), dreamy autobiographical poems about her childhood in Brazil, and language poems that read like ancient spells. In “The Spark,” she says, “The boys sat in front of your house at dusk…/Sometimes they held Marlboros out the car/windows and even/if they didn’t, sparks fell from their hands./…When you are loved,/the darkness carries you./When you are loved, you are golden.” And Loose Sugar never melts into caramel goo. Hillman will be joined by James Tate, a language poet who salts his work with animals and jagged imagery, at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol St. $8. (202) 544-7077. (Holly Bass)