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Ryo Yamaguchi Reviews Shanta Lee Gander's GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA for Poetry Foundation

The confines of Shanta Lee Gander’s debut, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA, aren’t those of tenements but of a resistant memory. This collection reads like a detective story as it conjures up lost relatives like ghosts and casts a time-travel spell upon the speaker so that she can enter the past: “How far can you go back? they said, Far, / she said, how far? they said, So far, she said, // It becomes a chant, she said, / I know all the names of my mothers.” But when she goes back, she finds memories that have hardened into disparate kernels. The speaker mulls over some recurring images and objects―a tan scarf turned into a halter top, the music of TLC and R. Kelly, a print of Gustav Klimt’s painting The Kiss, as examples―but there are gaps in between, things forgotten. She has to read her memories like a code:
280 Collins Street, in Mama’s lap, in wherever all things gone missing be― it wasn’t about any of these places, but how well you be walking backwards counting all the things between wake, fugue, and woke, how well you be multilingual in signs, fluent in breaking silences,


Shanta Lee Gander is an artist and multi-faceted professional. Her endeavors include writing and photography with work that has been featured in PRISM, ITERANT Literary Magazine, Palette Poetry, BLAVITY, DAME Magazine, The Crisis Magazine, Rebelle Society, on the Ms. Magazine Blog, and on a former radio segment Ponder This. Shanta Lee’s photojournalism has been featured on Vermont Public Radio ( and her investigative reporting has been in The Commons weekly newspaper covering Windham County, VT. Shanta Lee is the 2020 recipient of the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts. Her contributing work on an investigative journalism piece for The Commons received a New England Newspaper & Press Association (NENPA) 2019 award. Shanta Lee gives lectures on the life of Lucy Terry Prince, considered the first known African-American poet in English literature, as a member of the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers Bureau and is the 2020 gubernatorial appointee to their board of directors.

Shanta Lee is an MFA candidate in Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has an MBA from the University of Hartford and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality from Trinity College. To see more of Shanta Lee’s work, visit


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