cover image I Think I’m Ready To See Frank Ocean

I Think I’m Ready To See Frank Ocean

Shayla Lawson. Saturnalia, $16 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-0-9899797-8-8

Frank Ocean features as muse and guiding light to Lawson (A Speed Education in Human Being) in her second collection, with the singer-songwriter’s discography and persona serving as means to “wonder about humanity.” Lawson’s poems share titles with Ocean’s compositions and are grouped by album. In “Pilot Jones,” she uses the singer’s autobiographical details, such as his New Orleans youth, to showcase the consequences of unexpected loss: “Four hundred thousand/ heartbreaks. All carried away like the flood// he would become. Katrina:/ what she don’t drain she baptizes.” Yet in Ocean’s life, Lawson recognizes how loss can spur growth and inspire reinvention. She interprets the Ocean persona as the final step in a metamorphosis that sees college student “Lonny Breaux” (Ocean’s birth name) descend a sort of rabbit hole to Wonderland following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina: “Katrina// rescinds & he becomes The Ocean, channels/ orange—the abstinence / of blue—like the sky/ up above has never seen the gulf.” The figure of Alice even appears in “Novacane,” and Lawson notes that, “By the time she gets/ to Frank, she is addicted/ to looking glasses & fingers/ laced heavy around her trachea.” Arresting images heighten visceral emotions throughout this fine collection, as Lawson finds strength in vulnerability and, in Ocean, a model of successful transformation. (Mar.)