Purchased: Ecco Books website
Recommended By: Netgalley
Pages Of Poetry: 83
Recommended For: readers looking for someone doing something different with often confessional and political poetry. Fans of inventive formatting where pages don't look uniform. People who want strong feminist poems that challenge them rather than just sloganeering. People who want to learn things without feeling like the author is merely trying to educate them.
En vogue right now are manuscripts focused
on a single subject. One long poem or a series
of indistinguishable poems on the same subject.
There have been some excellent examples of
this conceit: Terrance Hayes's "American Sonnets
For My Past And Future Assassins", Nandi Comer's
"Tapping Out", and Tommy Pico's "Nature Poem"
come immediately to mind. And they linger there.
This book shatters that formula while still being
a sharp, focused collection of related poems.
There are those who see the term feminism as
a red flag because they are misogynist monsters.
There are others who believe themselves enlightened
allys who nonetheless profess they don't like to
read feminist manuscripts because they're too
(and here they say didactic, or political, or divisive,
or boring) because they don't recognise feminist
poems unless those poems are just the word feminist
over and over again. Those people will probably balk
at "That-which-must-not-be-named". Their loss.
But feminism reverberates in a story about a mother
led to do the unthinkable in "Mathemetician", the
Tweetpoem, "@mAnsPlainA", and really every poem.
There is also a lot of god in every nook of this collection.
That's often when I start skimming pages. I dislike
and reading about an author trying to come to terms
with their spirituality. Neither of those things happen
here. In this collection, god is a character. Someone the
author is talking to and about with the same reverence
one might write about a close family member.
And, yes, of course, like every poetry collection in the
21st century, trauma is here and present and examined
and spoken to and about. Sometimes in plain language
trauma. But the author is not asking for your pity or
even your awareness of their trauma. They are wondering
how their trauma affects those around them. The "I"
in every one of these poems is invested in how they are
affecting other people. It's not about their stories as much
as how their stories echo around them. It's refreshing.
But I am off subject. What I love most about this book
is how it breaks traditional formatting in several poems
but never feels like that is a gimmick. These are not
centered for the sake of being centered poems. No
waterfall tercets just because the poet thinks they look
pretty. Any poem that is not left justified, top justified
stanzas feels like there is a purpose to its shape, its
position on the page. Never does it feel like a distraction.
1. Shoot. Write a two page script. No dialogue. What is on the stage? How do the performers physically interact with their surroundings? What is this play trying to say with its muteness?
2. Ordinary Speak. Use a medical document or official paper and ever so slightly tweak its language into a poem.
3. A Good Day For Redemption. Epistolary poems can soothe. Write a letter to yourself in the past. Help them through a situation that was complicated for you. Let the know of the joy and the difficulty of their future.
4. Mathematician. Let me start by offering, as I often do, the caveat that you should never be appropriative of a culture that is not yours, no matter how easily you imagine you could fit in that culture's shoes. Find a news story about someone from where you are from. Someone who maybe looks/looked a bit like you. Someone who did something you can not imagine yourself doing. Explain their actions without casting negative judgment. Allow their story to be released into a world with more empathy than the one we currently inhabit.
5. Sum. Write yourself an aphorism (a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” --Lord Acton.) that you've never encountered before but with to see out in the world.
6. Our Utopias Are Different. Begin your poem with the following ghost line:
How fucked up is it that your utopia is my hell
And my utopia is the reality you want to escape from
I, originally, received this book as a PDF from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I finished it, I went online and ordered a physical copy of it. I chose it as the first book to recommend for a writing workshop I participate in. I've read it three times in the month and a half it's been available. I'm sure I'll be reading it again before the end of the year. It's definitely the sort of book you could build a lesson plan around.
Where You Can Buy This Book: Copper Dog Books
What You Should Read After:
Safia Elhillo's The January Children
Warsan Shire's Bless The Daughter Raised By A Voice In Her Head
Nandi Comer's Tapping Out
Justin Chin's Harmless Medicine
Porsha Olayiwola's I Shimmer Sometimes, Too