Saturday, November 04, 2023

Shane Book, All Black Everything


Going Forward

At last the Barbudos wear suits,
selling, selling into the deep

rhythms of the screen
cycling its venomous light rail

up and up, reverse waterfall
nano fork circuitous areole grease slit,

frost on the pain.
In the instep is shooting volts.

In the walking is wisdom.
Who this man

will not stop writing?
Him is have job.

Everything amped up
is unreal-real everything.

“Grenades detonate
when I enter the building.”

It takes a muscle
to fall in love.

The latest from poet Shane Book is All Black Everything (Iowa City IA: University of Iowa Press, 2023), a follow-up to his Congotronic (University of Iowa Press, 2014), and a collection that Montreal poet Kaie Kellough describes on the back cover as a book that “[…] proposes an expansive, global poetics, which is equally a poetics of Black diasporan fluency. All Black’s poems ride the crosscurrents of history and popular culture through African America, the Caribbean, West Africa, the United Kingdom, and Canada. As references whirl and constellate, All Black’s language grows dense and intricate.” Through sharp, short lyrics, Book offers a narrative display of wild collage that provides a clear through-line, writing a mix of culture, shape, reference, sound and geographies. His poems are rife with humour, swagger and declaration, even turning his fierce and steady magpie gaze upon himself: “You try living in a pigeon pen above a / series of car repair shops / and love motels for a while—,” he writes, to open the poem “I Know I’ve Reached Peak Shane,” “then come talk to me.”

Book’s lyrics showcase a different kind of magpie poetics than, say, Perth, Ontario Phil Hall: whereas one might say Hall’s lyrics carry a weight and assemble a sequence of light and shining objects, Book’s poems collect a myriad of moments of weight through his travels, but one approached with a counterbalance of lightness in the line, such as across the play of poems including “The Best Pozole in Santa Cruz,” “The Nervous Hunger of an Ox” or “Mexico City Stole My Wife,” a poem that begins: “Lingonberries the last diet hope, // she-blogger knitting together // a freedom, marauded through // by the state farmers and the  blue // cornet l’amour. Turns out // fingers up to the Beyoncé birthers.” There is such a joyous bounce and bop to his lyrics, one that dances across the line to further line through a sound and syntax that refuses, much like the author, to remain still or static. To travel, as one knows, is to better understand not only home, but what we carry from those places we are from, and Book knows full well, exploring and examining threads of diasporic conversation and communities against a counterpoint of globalization and global politics. It is the combination of all of the above that provide a through-line to his own foundations, even as he offers the poem “Dad Bod,” that begins: “I want to be happy // fuck you. Low rider magazine // easy-load for the AK // in a Black Liberation // Army birthday // type o’ way. First thing // Imma do is grow // my movement beard, // feel some type o’ way. // But you must live // in the Midwest, // be so inside // these landscaped // breather // like a new gold scarf // underwater.”


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