cover image New and Collected Poems

New and Collected Poems

Ishmael Reed. Atheneum Books, $22.95 (233pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12003-9

Reed is the baad man of contemporary black poetry, magician/musician of the printed page, turning his insights and cleansing rage into a hipster's be-bop vision of life in so-called white-run America. The self-invented ``Neo-HooDooism'' of his early poems blends Haitian voodoo, Egyptian death rites, street slang and African lore into a heady brew that subverts the dominant culture's racist, Eurocentric attitudes. The later poems are mellower, but Reed's basic stance remains unchanged. In ``The Middle Class Blues,'' a mordant ballad aimed at the black bourgeoisie as much as at whites, he mocks a world delimited by freeways and trips to the dentist. Persons who accuse novelist-essayist Reed ( Flight to Canada , etc.) of antifeminism will find some surprises (``When men invented the term / Bitch / They were talking about themselves''). His jazz-syncopated verses plunge us into a maelstrom of slumlords, reactionary poets, ``good Germans,'' sellouts, skydivers, posers, lovers and rebels. (Dec.)