Joker, Joker, Deuce

Paul Beatty, Author Penguin Books $14.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-14-058723-4
Poet and performance artist Beatty's ( Big Bank Take Little Bank ) second collection is obviously meant to be performed: the long poems read like a course in pop culture, covering everything from TV reruns to meditation and Mickey Mouse. Summoning up such black heroes as James Brown, Paul Robeson and Charles Mingus, he raises fascinating questions about the relationship of the African American past with present realities of a racially divided society. One poem, appropriately titled ``Verbal Mugging,'' suggests he's arrived at a position that combines anger with humor. He can become didactic at times, but the writing is so lyrical that readers don't feel shouted at or wrongfully accused. The imagery is vivid: describing a black poet he feels sold out to the establishment, he speaks of his ``platforms'' being replaced by ``hush puppies''; in another poem he depicts his house as a ``shooting gallery'' where he ``used to play connect the dots with the pock marks and scars / on my daddys arms.'' As good as he is, Beatty writes in one pitch which grows tiresome after a while, but it isn't long before some startling new image comes along and screams out for attention. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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