Funeral Diva

Pamela Sneed. City Lights, $16.95 ISBN 978-0-87286-811-3
The memoirlike latest from poet, performer, and visual artist Sneed (Kong and Other Works) evokes a queer and Black coming-of-age story and its wider cultural resonance. Vividly capturing an array of formative relationships with friends, lovers, and family from the late 1980s and early ’90s, Sneed’s recalled experiences take the reader from the Boston suburbs and AIDS pandemic-era New York to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana. Essays such as “History” and “Ila,” reminiscent of writing by Hilton Als and influenced by Audre Lorde, cross-pollinate with poetic considerations of the present. Frequently, Sneed’s tone is affectingly elegiac: “And all those gay boys I met and worked with at a restaurant in Boston,/ who disappeared like thousands of bits of paper,/ wind just simply took.” Yet just as often, this voice can be wry and lacerating: “This is some high-wire sawed-in-half lady shit/ This is like some Hannah Arendt the banality of evil and/ the bureaucratization of homicide shit.” Sneed’s speakers welcome complexity in poems like “Bey” (“I have to say I envy Beyoncé/ That she gets to show up after the fact in New Orleans”) and “Survivor,” which traces the speaker’s uneasy feelings about daredevil swimmer Diana Nyad. In this book, bracing honesty reveals both the necessity and the costs of resilience. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 10/15/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Poetry
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