Monk Eats an Afro

Yolanda Wisher. Hanging Loose (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-934909-42-3
“You are Black/ and have a right to this// this be your fiddle/ claim it,” announces Wisher in her debut collection, a blend of beat and slam poetry, peppered with lullabies and ballads. For all of Wisher’s songsmithing, her poems are strongest for their dexterous mix of gall (“America, you beautiful suitor of indigenous bitches. I am a slaveship and you are a skyscraper”) and lyric restraint (“the trees/ were her lovers/ the wet earth/ her alibi/ she knew the way/ forward/ was going back/ and she gathered us up”). Womanhood, motherhood, and mentorship are at the forefront, even in the face of death and violence. Similarly, in the vein of Gwendolyn Brooks or Lucille Clifton, Wisher praises menstruation, “out of this delta called/ girl & then woman/ then mama// she be fertility.” In an elegant elegiac address, she states, “I heard it was/ bad luck to attend/ a funeral so heavy/ but I went/ to see you off/ anyway/ my body was full/ of somebody/ I didn’t know yet.” Wisher, through her wordplay, exposes racism and sexism—“Pic a chic/ No nic a nigga...// Pic a nigga/ For pickin/ Trying to be slick wit/ A white chic”—to demonstrate that, quite the singer, she is just getting started. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/21/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
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