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Book Review: Wild Beauty: New and Selected Poems by Ntozake Shange (2017)

“i am more dangerous than noreiga”

(Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Netgalley. Trigger warning for rape.)

all things are possible
but aint no colored magician in her right mind
gonna make you white
i mean
this is blk magic
you lookin at
(“my father is a retired magician”)

i haveta turn my television down sometimes cuz
i cant stand to have white people/ shout at me/
(“from okra to greens”)

we need a god who bleeds now
whose wounds are not the end of anything
(“we need a god who bleeds now”)

Wild Beauty falls into that weird, nebulous category of “poems I’m not sure I completely understand, but am mostly smitten with anyway.” A mix of new and previously published poetry from Ntozake Shange, Wild Beauty is enchanting and seductive and, occasionally, raw AF. Shange explores wide-ranging issues, including race, gender, sexuality, love, the military-industrial complex, the police state, the process of creating art, and the centrality of music in her life. As is par for the course with poetry, I wasn’t convinced that I was always picking up what Shange put down, but I was happy to come along for the ride anyway. Well, more or less: it’s true that I did skim a few of the pieces, but these were few and far between.

Among my favorites are “my father is a retired magician”; “toussaint”; “live oak”; “irrepressibly bronze, beautiful & mine”; “rise up fallen fighters”; “7 tequilas gone”; “the stage goes to darkness”; “crooked woman”; “about atlanta”; “who needs a heart”; and “pages for a friend.” I fear that “crack annie” will stick with forever, though not in a good way; the poem is written from the pov of a mother who facilitates the rape of her seven-year-old daughter in exchange for drugs, and it is simply haunting. “ode to orlando” is as well, though in a more melancholy (as opposed to nauseating) way. Written in the days after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Shange reflects on how the tragedy did – and could have – impacted her own family. (Shange’s daughter is gay and has in fact been to the club.)


Preface • xi
Prólogo • xv

Translating Ntozake Shange • xix
Traducir a Ntozake Shange • xxv

we need a god who bleeds now • 3
from okra to greens • 5
my father is a retired magician • 9
for all my dead & loved ones • 13
once there were quadroon balls • 17
tango • 19
toussaint • 21
just as the del vikings stole my heart • 31
on becomin successful • 33
nappy edges (a cross country sojourn) • 35
i heard eric dolphy in his eyes • 41
expiriese girl wanted • 51
lady in blue • 57
take the A train • 59
dream of pairing • 61
lady in blue II • 63
lotsa body & cultural heritage/ • 65
loosening strings or give me an ‘A’ • 67
never mind sister • 71
a third generation geechee myth for yr birthday • 73
i live in music • 77
latin night is monday • 79
mood indigo • 81
lady in brown • 91
18 march 1984 • 95
live oak • 97
box & pole • 99
hands & holding • 101
tropical dance • 105
lovin you is ecstasy to me • 107
between a dancer & a poet • 109
new orleans nuptials • 113
irrepressibly bronze, beautiful & mine • 117
“if i go all the way without you where would i go?” • 125
rise up fallen fighters • 131
elegance in the extreme • 137
chastening with honey • 139
wrapping the wind • 143
in the blueness • 145
7 tequilas gone • 149
the stage goes to darkness • 151
telephones & other false gods • 155
the old men • 167
crooked woman • 169
dressing our wounds in warm clothes • 173
crack annie • 175
about atlanta • 185
who needs a heart • 191
people of watts • 193
lady in red • 197
new world coro • 199
walk, jump, fly • 203
fame on all fours • 207
lizard poem • 215
five • 223
pages for a friend • 231
these blessings • 233
a word is a miracle • 235
an actual poem • 237
ode to orlando • 239
mama’s little baby • 234
chicago in sanfrancisco & you • 245

Acknowledgments • 249
Credits and Permissions • 253

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

This post first appeared on Vegan Daemon, please read the originial post: here

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Book Review: Wild Beauty: New and Selected Poems by Ntozake Shange (2017)


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