It has been nearly a month since I have touched this blog. Shame on me. I have been attempting to take the poem a day challenge, but I haven't been happy with 99% of my work. However, that's not the point of PAD. I was/am hoping to return to that place where poetry was less neurotic, that place where I put my laptop on an upside down laundry basket and typed away into the night.
Since my last entry, I have spent much quality time with Jericho Brown's book Please. It has been a long time since I have combed through a book this much. My clean, signed, gorgeous copy of Please is now a bit rough. Many pages are dog-earred, and there even exists a smudge of coffee here and there. This is of course a compliment to Jericho's work. I am in no way one of those people who believe in keeping a book in mint condition and the shape of a book (or my old Jeep Wrangler-for a nostalgia-drenched example) speaks to how much I cherish it.
Terrance Hayes' blurb of Please reads, I could never say all I love about this book...I agree with Hayes, and for the sake of not divulging everything, I will only list a few aspects of the book that have resonated in my mind for the past month as I have savored this book.
Jericho wastes no time or word in this book. From the very first poem, the reader is slammed into a world where seemingly opposites are separated only by diaphanous, thin lines the speaker must walk across; sometimes tip-toeing, sometimes waltzing, sometimes even stomping. The tongue lashes but loves. A young man with a father is oh-so-fatherless. A song is an affirmation and a form of torture, a celebration and a lament. This juxtapostioning continues throughout the book and leaves the reader a joyous wreck.
And the sequencing!!! Jericho definitely needs to teach a course on assembling a manuscript. Please is organized as three sections of poems: Repeat, Pause, and Power. There is also a forth section of notes titled Stop. To give you an idea of Jericho's style, check out the table of contents. Here are the titles of the poems in the first section: Track 1: Lush Life, Prayer of the Backhanded, Track 3: (Back Down) Memory Lane, Track 4: Reflections, Scarecrow,
Again, Autobiography, Detailing the Nape, Track 5: Summertime, Beneath Me, and Herman Finley is Dead.
For me, the common thread of all books that I find worthy of multiple reads is that the writer must create a world where I can be moved. I hope that's not too selfish, but I want my heart broken in new ways. I want to cringe and laugh, and hold my breath at times. Please is one of those books that smacks the reader while caressing him or her. Take this brief excerpt from the poem Pause, which is the first poem of the second section.
I should have known-
I who hate for people to comment
That I must be happy
Just because they hear me hum.
I want to ask
If they ever heard of slavery,
The work song-the best music
Is made of subtraction,
The singer seeks an exit from the scarred body
And opens his mouth
Trying to get out.
Do you have chills yet? It is not uncommon for most of the poems in Please to have that effect.
It is hard for me to digest that Please is Jericho's first book. It is just that impressive. Of course, one look at the teachers and friends thanked on his acknowledgements page and you will see that he has worked with a variety of fabulous writers.
Jericho Brown is certainly no amateur that landed a first book deal. Please could stand up to many writers third or fourth or fifth book. And then some.