cover image Soul Culture: Black Poets, Books, and Questions That Grew Me Up

Soul Culture: Black Poets, Books, and Questions That Grew Me Up

Remica Bingham-Risher. Beacon, $26.95 (248p) ISBN 978-0-8070-1592-6

Poet Bingham-Risher (Starlight & Error) mines the experiences of Black writers in this jovial mix of memoir, essay, and homage to her literary “guiding voices.” Lyrical essays elucidate the themes that emerged from interviews she conducted over almost two decades with 10 Black poets. In “Imagining Home,” she explains how she found poetry “outside of song” as a fifth grader when a teacher read her class Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son.” Soon thereafter, Bingham-Risher wrote her first poem, which won a prize. In “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” she bonds with Patricia Smith over a shared “lifelong obsession with music” both for its own sake and as poetry. Lucille Clifton, she notes in “Intimate Tending,” highlights that, for Black artists, “living is political whether we want it to be or not” and writes that that’s what she is “disappointed not to find in the writing of those without the birth-burden of double consciousness as part of their living and, hence, breath, breadth, and work.” The author’s own poems appear throughout, including one for her daughter that honors Black women’s names. It adds up to a powerful celebration of poets who “paint life with all its many spirals and errors.” Lit lovers will be dazzled. (Aug.)