cover image A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom

A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom

Harmony Holiday. Birds, LLC, $18 (60p) ISBN 978-0-9914298-9-9

In this extraordinary book-length sequence of linked prose pieces and lyric fragments, Holiday (Negro League Baseball) considers the role of visual rhetoric, particularly ads, in perpetuating race, class, and gender stereotypes. After presenting an image with two cropped and faceless subjects, the speaker remarks: “We soon discover that the central question is who are we and what are we doing to ourselves? It takes years and years to turn the men real again.” Holiday invites questions of power and complicity in prose that is captivating and deceptive in its simplicity. She jostles hierarchies, mixing high and low culture, destabilizing a familiar language. She asks, for instance, “Can’t we forget all that for now and just play? I am playing all of these niggas. I am singing/ always.” The speaker seems to interrogate the intentions of the work itself, turning a rhetorical space into a stage for delightfully irreverent aesthetic gestures. In doing so, Holiday reminds us of the difference between performance and play, as in “playful lark in heap of museum Styrofoam,” a familiar joy that is not “in the service of the established order of things.” Through Holiday’s singular artistic vision, these remarkable poems reframe cultural exploitation and objectification, offering a stirring social commentary. (July)