Don’t Let Them See Me Like This

Jasmine Gibson. Nightboat, $16.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-937658-83-0
The personal is unavoidably political in Gibson’s debut, a confrontation with the multitudinous layers of her identity and a dissection of how identity is impacted by systemic oppression and anti-blackness. Throughout, she dances between metaphor and casual conversation, revealing slippages that can occur amid a person’s attempts to claim a sense of autonomy. In the opening poem, “Bender,” Gibson gets at the often illusory nature of freedom and the ways a person’s conception of self is at the mercy of larger forces: “we know the state is collecting our image/ for a time when we’ll remember, maybe incorrectly.” In “Heavy Metal,” thoughts of Hurricane Katrina, the Flint water crisis, and the Syrian civil war churn amid descriptions of desirous bodies, “your body on mine and how I want you to melt on my tongue.” A sense of impending doom pervades the work in such lines as “We only mourn blacks who die/ for peace treaties and reasons/ that ultimately don’t lead us to liberation.” If black people are routinely sacrificed for a freedom that never fully arrives, Gibson wonders, then how do the people get free? For Gibson, the collected evidence points in one direction: “If Black Lives Matter, then that means the destruction of America.” (July)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
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