Monday, January 2, 2017

What I've Read: There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker

I couldn't wait to have this book be my first read of 2017.

I love poetry, I love Beyonce (the release of Lemonade was doubtlessly a high point of 2016), and I love work that incorporates deft, political, experimental examinations of pop culture and identity. This book is all of that, and more.

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce is a voyage of self-definition in the midst of history, contemporary problems both personal and systemic, and the invisible and visible structures that seek to impose definition and inhibit growth. The result illustrates the myriad ways in which exploring and celebrating self-growth, self-definition, and wide-awake witness to the world around us is what constitutes authenticity.

The image of Beyonce, herself, exists as a Muse, a rubric, and a challenge; the poems that utilize her as an icon engage with her in this way. She is an emblem for simultaneous embrace and response. There is an ever-present tension and celebration in how Beyonce operates in the text, demanding that we attend to iterations of womanhood, modernity, race, and class. The tone of the book is also largely one of exasperation; this is a point at which Parker unfolds the wry humor, biting wit, and moments of celebration present in the poems. More often than not, these elements are all present in the same poem.

The care with which Parker attends to each poem is evident. Most of the poems, both experimental and free-verse, are filled with allusions to literature, history, and pop culture (not only Beyonce), resulting in an overall effect that is deftly kaleidoscopic. The themes, tones, and allusions shift and turn in Parker's stunning examination of the exhausting and raw beauty of self-definition and womanhood.

Thank you to NetGalley for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for review.

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