Dated Emcees

Chinaka Hodge. City Lights (Consortium, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (62p) ISBN 978-0-87286-725-3
Hodge, a founding member of the collaborative hip-hop ensemble the Getback, places the hip-hop tradition front and center in a debut collection structured to mimic a double album. She relates stories from the perspective of young women immersed in hip-hop culture, using linked haiku for Notorious BIG (“you: a manual/ a mural, pressed rock, icon,/ fightin word or curse”), couplets for Tupac Shakur, and a broken ghazal for Jordan Davis (a black teenager who was murdered by a white man who thought his music was too loud). Hodge’s poem “Ratchet,” which complicates well-worn narratives within some hip-hop tropes, finds a girl engaged with visible markers of class in the manner of poet Ruth Forman’s “Stoplight Politics.” Cleverly shifting hip-hop’s traditionally masculine focus, Hodge underscores the overlooked stories of women via persona poems ripe with color and sharp imagery. The strength of her speakers’ voices are particularly noteworthy in the first-person poems, the women loving the voices of the men who surround them, but standing powerfully on their own. She also makes reference to anonymous working mothers and notable women and girls such as Erykah Badu, Kelis, and Blue Ivy Carter. Hodge’s impressive sense of line control and allusions to the genre may remind readers of Ntozake Shange. Despite the dated of the title, this is a timely collection. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/16/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 64 pages - 978-0-87286-702-4
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