Black Movie

Dear Jeannie,

I’M SO SORRY! It’s only my second post and here I am, a day late (and not even with any Starbucks either). So if it wasn’t abundantly clear before, I’m just going to say that classes have officially started and it’s busy, busy, busy. Not only do I have a lot on my plate, I’ve got food all over the table and some of it’s dribbling onto the floor.

So back to what we’re all here for, I’ll be talking about a poetry chapbook called “Black Movie” by Danez Smith, who is a pretty well-known spoken word poet (here’s one of his performances I particularly liked: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivNWzr-Zue8). He’s got phenomenal stage presence and I’ve only ever viewed videos of him speaking his work so reading it was a very different experience. I didn’t even realize the sheer scale of additional emotion and tone and power that body language or voice cadence infused into words until I was reading it and feeling like something was off, like walking into a room where the lights were a little too blue. (I don’t feel qualified to talk about the intricacies of the differences in reception and reader experience between written poetry and spoken poetry and I couldn’t tell you which I like better) but anyway, try both and see which one you enjoy more I guess.

Beyond the poems’ medium, the content is piercing and prickly and beautiful and tragic and funny and joyful in turn. Smith is supremely talented at talking about hard to talk about subjects (this particular chapbook is focused on racism and race-fueled police brutality specifically) in a tone that allows room for humor but also reminds you that nothing about this can be or ever will be funny.

It feels like a little bit of a copout to quote the same quote that the book jacket does, but what can I say, they chose well.

“Think: Once, a white girl

was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.

Later, up the block, Troy got shot

& that was Tuesday. Are we not worthy

Of a city of ash? Of 1,000 ships

Launched because we are missed?

Always, something deserves to be burned.

It’s never the right thing”

In my experience, a collection of poems is like a box of chocolates very ripe strawberries. Very rarely are all of the strawberries perfectly ripe. Usually a few are speckled with mold, if not covered completely in a white fur coat. Smith’s chapbook is the same deal. A few poems were fantastic, la creme de la creme and all that, but a few I found kind of boring or at least unmoving.

Overall, it was worth a read, as it’s a very short collection but if the chapbook is hard to get (my local library didn’t have a copy but my school did) most of the really hard-hitting, strong pieces are on Youtube as spoken word performances.

**Note: some poems do contain explicit language

See you soon!

Crystal

P.S. I’ll try my very best not to be late again

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