Reprint-What is More Beautiful Than Beyonce?

This was originally printed in Roar magazine. I was solicited by Anna March to review There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker. Read about my experience with Anna March here. 

I will be writing a follow up to that soon. And about this review in particular.

 

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The short version of this review is- you should read this book. The work in There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyonce is beautiful and immaculate, it is excellent work. Morgan Parker is an exciting and wonderful poet. Stick around for the long version.

I have a habit of yelling at things I like, especially writing I like. After the first poem, I put this book face down on my lap and started muttering to myself in public. Oh shit, first poem, okay, fine, just fucks me up fam. I had to take my time reading Morgan Parker’s beautiful collection because it felt private. I felt invaded and read to filth in the best kind of way.

I love poetry. Poetry for me is the highest kind of art. Poetry bleeds, it weeps, when it is good to me, it has a hard steady pulse and reaches inside me to rearrange things a little. Parker’s work in this book, is the type of art I dream about.

To say there are things more beautiful than Beyonce, is throwing a major gauntlet. Beyond the potential wrath of the Beyhive, what is more beautiful than Beyonce? What can be more beautiful than Beyonce? As I (or you) the reader enters into the little world of this book, we gon’ learn today.

I know my pussy is real good because they said so.

Poetry when it is good for me reaches in and starts grabbing. Words put together in ways that thrill me and pull me in tight to the work. Aesthetically, the way the poems are put together, I can hear breath in the spacing, silence where appropriate. The way Morgan has interwoven Blackness, beauty, sex, vice and desire gives her work a body, a pulse, a wet mouth, tears.  It is bodied and embodied. This is poetry that sees and loves my Black body and I am here for it.

Confuse the meanings

of castle and slum, exotic

and erotic.

When you get deeper into the book, settle into a comfortable rhythm, it’s easy to devour this book whole. I read it in a bus ride and read it again on my next bus ride. This isn’t overly fancy, poetryYou don’t need a stack of reference books and your lifeline on speed dial. This is accessible and but not easy. To be a Black poet who boldly and nakedly talks about Blackness, the beauty and the pain is by default not doing anything simple. Blackness is so varied and capturing nuance of being Black in America is no small thing.

We low hum of satisfaction. We is is is is is is is is

Touch, touch, shine, a little taste.

The level of skill it takes to use simple, easily understood imagery and keep the complexity and intricacy of the work intact and in this case, presented with dignified coolness is testament to both Morgan’s skill as a poet and the skill of the other people who worked on this book.  In terms of the things I as a reader crave, this book has it all.

I am hungry for myself.

As a reader, I am hungry for representation. I am in need of hearing a voice that could be my own, even if I can’t write poetry. Many of the poetry collections that are recommended to me, are absolutely lovely, but am not there. Being seen and heard, especially in the lit world is a rare thing that is more beautiful than Beyonce. Given the deleterious Whiteness of the poetry world, as a reader it can be difficult and hurtful to be invisible in the pages of poetry collections. To be seen and loved in the way this collection does, is wonderful.

What if I said I’m tired?

I am a writer and sometimes a poet. Real talk, I’m pissed off that I didn’t write this.  As an artist, one of the things I can freely admit to is a certain amount of peevishness when I read or see beautiful things that I did not create. I want to have birthed this beautiful, magical book. I want people like me, to read such a book and feel what I feel. Mind you, this is not a lasting peevishness. I’m not mad at Morgan Parker or Tin House, I just love it that much.

Do you think I could be a witch?

Can shine be caught like a fever?

Overall, Morgan Parker’s collection There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce is more beautiful than Beyonce. The flesh and bone of this volume is thick as my thighs and solid. Morgan Parker’s voice is strong and sure and sad and gorgeous and drunk on wine and bodies and itself. I want to tell Morgan Parker, thank you. I want to hear her read these poems to me until I fall into the most satisfied of sleeps.  Read this book. Cherish it. Live with it in your heart.

Dear reader, I’m sure you noticed the bolded lines above. These are some of my favorite lines from this book. I didn’t attribute each poem because I’m kind of a weirdo and I want you to find them when you read this book. Because, you need to read this book.

~

And one last thing, I now have an official writer page over at Facebook. Come like it. Share it with your friends.

Books at the end of the year.

I almost said world.

Goodness.

So first some quickie reviews of stuff I’ve read recently.

Women by Chloe Caldwell. This was a quick read. Essentially we find our sort of heterosexual narrator who is deeply neurotic, struggling with addiction and stuff falling for a hot ass butch. Remember I’m 37 for a minute here. Reading this reminded me of women I dated in my early twenties. None of those relationships turned out well, there was much drama like in the book. As far as books I feel like all the Queers need to read, eh. I do think female id’d queers in their 20s would probably enjoy this more than I did. I did enjoy that while beautifully written the style lent itself to the occasional clunky sentance, that fit well with the overall tone of the whole thing. (Sorry affiliate link here) I really like how Chloe writes, her book  Legs Get Led Astray was gorgeous. O

Not long ago I finished reading The Black Company (Chronicles of The Black Company #1) by Glen Cook. This was recommended to me quite a while back by a friend of mine. It is listed as dark fantasy. Okay you could have knocked me over with a feather. There are Black people, like specifically named integral to the story black folks in this book who are not denoted by weird 30s AAVE, nor are they bowing and scraping Yassir Nossir Magical negroes. I knew nothing about Glen Cook and then saw he is an old White Dude. Also this first book let me note was put out in 1984. So I will continue the series. It has my favorite shit, magic, mercenaries, foul language and some mean ass people. I do recommend.

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson. I’m almost done with it, I’ve been reading it in tiny ten/twenty page increments because I love it so much.  If you are a stickler for “proper” English or have some racist leanings in regard to language don’t read this book.This patois used in the book is particular but if you can’t stand “misspellings” etc skip it. Once I got the hang of the usage and speech (which realistically happened in under 50 pages which is more than I can say for the first time I read Trainspotting, which I notice most critics don’t mention the language..that is a whole other thing) the book is great. It is not an easy read, there is some serious shit going down in this world. If you’ve been with me for a while you know I’m a Nalo Hopkinson fangirl and this book just…yeah.  It is honestly just a great damn book. Read it.

Did I mention Cataract City: A Novel by Craig Davidson? First, let me tell you a story. Years ago I read Rust and Bone also by Craig Davidson. I love the fuck out of that collection. Rust and Bone: Stories came out in 2005 and was recommended to me at the time by a friendly bookstore owner. Then like now I did not buy a lot of brand new just came out books but, the owner wanted me to read it so badly I got a discount. Awesome right? So I read it twice in a row, loved it and lost the fucking book. The store owner had a long standing habit of recommending me books and neither of us could remember what book it was or who wrote it. Cut to me randonly looking at some bullshit on the internet and HOLY SHIT THAT GUY WROTE THIS BOOK. Ahem. Since then I’ve fixed his name in my brain and follow his work cause damn. Cataract City was not a disappointment. It is sad and beautiful. Something about the fact that his voice is both tender and cut glass rough just hits me right in the gut. I love it.

Apparently this is gonna be my year in memorable books. Deal with it.

 

Next obviously I have to talk about Antonia Crane’s memoir Spent: A Memoir. I think I first started following Antonia’s writing on the Rumpus? Similarly I started reading my now dear friend and publisher Milcah from the Rumpus and it might have been Antonia interviewing Milcah…hrm I should find out about that. Anyway as we all know once I like how someone writes I will follow them around the internet a lot. Because obviously I must read EVERYTHING THEY WRITE. I waited and waited for Spent, I remember when she got a deal I did a happy dance. I bought Spent the minute I could afford it and goddamn. It was worth the wait. Just read it. Antonia wrote for real down to the bone and reading it hurts. So do it.

Speaking of hot women I know (I am AWESOME at the segue no?) my friend Sarah Katherine Lewis re-released her book Rehab a Gogo. Go buy it from her right now. Sarah is hilarious and terribly honest. Also buying it this way, gets her cash so get on that. I can also recommend her other books Indecent: How I Make It and Fake It as a Girl for Hire and Sex and Bacon: Why I Love Things That Are Very, Very Bad for Me. I have to say the latter is my favorite. Just just buy them. She’s fantastic.

Moving along. One of the other memorable books I read this year was Junkie Love by Joe Clifford. I am familiar with his work from the Flash Fiction Offensive (I was published there yonks ago) I want to say that’s how I met Court Merrigan (another author I’m terribly fond of) as well but I could be wrong. So I saw an announcement for this book a few months before it got published and picked it up earlier this year. I am a sucker for a good degenerate love story and this fit the bill for me. Junkies in love, mental illness and the nut all the way redeemed protagonists. I like that shit. Good book if you like this sort of thing.

We can’t talk about my year in books without talking about the Sandman Slim Seires and Richard fuckin Kadrey. Start here with Sandman Slim: A Novel and keep going. Now I had not been looking for another series of books to get hooked on and these got me. There is not too much romance, LA isn’t a White wasteland, our hero is an asshole which isn’t totally his fault but he’s still an asshole. This series gives me the Bosch series feels but using magic and there’s hell and zombies and all sorts of shit going on. I really love this series.

I also read a fucking shitload of short fiction this year. I mean I read a fucking metric ton of short fiction and a lot of it was pretty great.

I will admit that I kind of miss HTMLGIANT book reviews. Some of them were pretty great and introduced me to authors I might not have heard of otherwise. RIP sorta I guess.

And I’m not even counting audiobooks here. Of which I also experienced a lot. Some were awful some not so much.

I have via the magic of presents from people and the last sale at Thriftbooks a hefty stack of paperbacks to read.I am rolling into 2015 many words deep.

I will close this out with a musical note. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to this band this year Gov’t Mule. I just fucking love them. So first check out one of the few covers of I’d Rather go Blind that I like.

Then if you’d like to give one of my writing playlists a spin. Hit random and get the fuck to work.

The Talisman. A hell of a review.

Recently I read The Talisman by Peter Straub and Stephen King.

We know I’m a King fan. I am not as big a fan of Straub just because I haven’t read enough of his work.

Short version: not bad. I enjoyed the Mythos, loved the wee hero. I loved a lot of the details of the worlds and the way King and Straub’s work mixed together.

Long version.

Oh I had issues.

The one Black character spoke in this shuck and jive patois through the whole book that just grated on me. We find Speedy quickly and he is the Magical Negro of Magical Negroes.

Folks, I can stand a little shuck and jive but not to the point of distraction. It was distracting and detracted from the rest. Even characters from the other world in this book The Territories, didn’t rely so heavily on approximations of AAVE.

The breaks for Speedy to burst into song along with the butchered AAVE was exhausting.

I love characters with their own flavor, just not that one.

Now some good things.

I loved the Wolfboy/man Wolf and the explanation of those people. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book (contrasted with Game of Thrones) is that the other (as in not average White folks) are written as lovingly and carefully as everyone else.

I was also very into the explanations/reasons for why a lot of things like distance and Twinners exist in the Territories. This is also why I loved the Dark Tower series (magical Negro Susannah included mostly, we’ll talk about that another day) is the way this world and that world overlap, intersect and differentiate. Some of the differences are subtle, some not so much and I dig it.

I read the second book in this series years ago but plan on going back to reread now that I understand the origin of it.

Also I have to mention how much I love the way King writes kids. These aren’t super kids, they are scared shitless and sometimes do selfish child things and I love that. If you’re going to put a child character in a horrifying situation, I’d prefer to see them be a kid rather than be tiny Superman.

Being that this was written in 1984 I think I can cut both authors some slack about the Magical Negro thing. Fact is, of all the horror novels I read as a kid, King books at least tried. So daps for that.

As a consequence of me reading more genre fiction than I have in the last few years, I find myself frequently at a loss and just kind of shaking my head.

Here’s the thing. If you have written a novel in the last decade and you come from America, you have probably seen various sorts of Black folks. You can put them in your stories and the world won’t end. Yes it can be hard work and yes you will come across readers like me who might raise an eyebrow at your gun toting, pants sagging Yo MTV raps caricature if that’s what you’re doing. but you might do it well.

Give it a shot it’s not that hard.

What else did I like?

I like how King and Straub built a vernacular for The Territories. I am a huge fan of authors who can do this and not have it come across as silly or otherwise unbelievable. The reader learns as the hero Jack learns and I appreciate it. Some things go unexplained but it’s not hard to figure out.

I will say that most of the women in this book are not that interesting by themselves. The part they play in the plot is interesting but as standalone characters they aren’t great. You have your Mommies, your sad bar slut type and a few others none very interesting.

Other good things.

The pacing is fantastic. Yes it goes on a lot, if you’re a fan of getting to the point you will probably not like it. If you don’t mind detours into other places that don’t necessary need to be there to move the plot along, you’ll dig it. I dig it. I love that.

Also, as with most King books I do love how there are bits and pieces that call to his other work. Let me say AGAIN how much I would love to look back in 30 years and see some of that in my own work. It’s like an Easter Egg for hardcore long time fans.

So at the bottom of it, it’s a good book. It’s a nice yarn with some surprises and excellent world building. Some of it is really annoying if you have my sensibilities but, I’m not mad.

That’s all.