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I am not usually the biggest fan of poetry. I didn’t read carefully enough about this book and so when it arrived and my husband picked it up to see what it was and exclaimed “hey, it’s poetry!” my spirits fell. I am not nearly smart enough for poetry, or maybe it’s that I’m not patient enough for poetry. I’m definitely not something enough for poetry…most of the time.
When I read books of poetry it feels like I am speed dating, looking for one that speaks to me. I’m looking to be inspired, to find understanding or be understood. While books take me on journeys, I expect poetry to reflect myself back to me but in more pretentious and inspirational form. I expect poetry to tell me what I’ve been so I can say “hey, I can relate to that.” I expect poetry to tell me what I could be so I can say “omg I feel so connected and motivated, my brain is ready to grow and be more intelligent.”
When I read books of poetry, I imagine that I feel a lot like people who don’t “get” jazz. It’s all good if it’s Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Armstrong but sometimes jazz gets tough. Sometimes jazz gets weird. Sometimes it’s because we just don’t understand and sometimes it’s just that the jazz is bad and is hiding behind the idea that people just don’t understand.
So when I read Morgan Parker’s collection I knew that my personal experience was not black enough to understand all of what she was saying. My experience was also not urban enough, and I mean that not as alluding to black but to literally mean cities. I have never been to Los Angeles or New York, and while I’ve been to Chicago a few times I am intelligent enough to know that living there is drastically different from visiting or observing from afar. In addition to race and location, I felt that a majority of my life experiences kept the soul of this collection just out of my reach.
I understood the messages though. I understood what she was saying. If I had spent more time with each poem, pouring over them like a fan of modern art might at a museum, I am sure my appreciation would grow, like how you might have to listen to John Coltrane over and over until something clicks. I think Parker’s writing is the jazz that I may not understand, but it not so new age that understanding could not be achieved.
I appreciated how the scattered Beyonce poems humanized the artist. How amazing it is to be denied the right to say “I’m tired” simply because if you did you would no longer be considered to be a god. The poems about Beyonce were very good, and I think they are an excellent companion to Lemonade; the idea that black women are human and not just pieces on a game board for our amusement or general use is one that must be shouted loudly and to the heavens.
Give this book a try. I am glad that I sat down and listened.
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