cover image Maybe the Saddest Thing

Maybe the Saddest Thing

Marcus Wicker. HarperCollins, $13.99 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-06-219101-4

Dense with echo and vibrant with syncopation, Wicker’s debut (chosen for the National Poetry Series by D.A. Powell) deploys a festive panoply of characters from African-American culture and music to make serious claims about memory, sadness, race, self-consciousness, and desire. “Love Letter to RuPaul” appraises “the hourglass-shaping choke hold/ you can put on a mic”; “The Break Beat Break” considers “the body’s// never-ending addiction to movement... spun/ backward on a turntable.” Wicker gets introspective too, self-conscious and self-mocking: “I’m only telling you this because/ you’re reading a poem,” he says in a deceptively serious “I’m a Sad, Sad Man. So Sad.” Prose blocks, couplets, short stuttered lines and long ones that repeat his own name (as in a ghazal) give the collection exciting variety, while its memories—sexy, pathetic, guilty or all three, as in pages about Wicker’s Michigan teenage years—give the work a cumulative gravity. Between the tricky meta-poems and the confessional elements, the formal games and the musical knowledge, Wicker will surely be compared to Terrance Hayes; at the same time, Wicker’s lines stand up on their own, whether pacing in clipped regret or proclaiming that Wicker can after all live up to his idols with all their moves, jazz riffs, larger-than-life displays. (Nov.)