Wild Hundreds

Nate Marshall. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-8229-6383-7
In his powerful debut collection, winner of the 2014 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Marshall explores the perils and praise songs of black lives on the South Side of Chicago. Much of the collection takes shape through the voice of a young black man navigating high school, family, friendships, and the physical and mental dangers that surround him as he strives toward manhood. Marshall, a coeditor of The Breakbeat Poets anthology, displays his talent for tight narrative snapshots throughout, particularly in poems such as “Indian summer,” which makes use of searing, multifaceted imagery that challenges the reader to see the dangers of summer for young black Chicagoans and why they “pray for rain.” The poem “Mama Says” deftly explores the toll of mental trauma experienced by Marshall’s speaker as he attempts to reconcile the violent deaths of friends. Some poems struggle to do more than simply present raw emotion and experience, but these are small bumps in an otherwise impressive debut. Marshall’s poetry offers an insider’s perspective that asks the reader to parse the sociopolitical systems that imperil black lives—not through abstract ideology, but through authentically rendered eyes: “every kid that’s killed is one less free lunch,/ a fiscal coup. welcome to where we from.” (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/17/2015
Release date: 09/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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