Magical Negro by Morgan Parker
Dates Read: March 14-16, 2019
Synopsis: Magical Negro is an archive of Black everydayness, a catalog of contemporary folk heroes, an ethnography of ancestral grief, and an inventory of figureheads, idioms, and customs. These American poems are both elegy and jive, joke and declaration, songs of congregation and self-conception. They connect themes of loneliness, displacement, grief, ancestral trauma, and objectification, while exploring and troubling tropes and stereotypes of Black Americans. Focused primarily on depictions of Black womanhood alongside personal narratives, the collection tackles interior and exterior politics—of both the body and society, of both the individual and the collective experience. In Magical Negro, Parker creates a space of witness, of airing grievances, of pointing out patterns. In these poems are living documents, pleas, latent traumas, inside jokes, and unspoken anxieties situated as firmly in the past as in the present—timeless Black melancholies and triumphs. (from Goodreads)
I like how the wording in a lot of the poems reflects the ways people actually speak. Despite that, I often got confused by it. It sometimes felt as if th poerms weren’t finished, as if there should have been more words or lines. I had to reread quite a few poems just to determine what the exact message was, rather than just a general understanding. I feel like these poems could have used a little more polishing.
Interest Value: 3/5
Even though I had difficulty reading a lot of these poems, I do think their contents are good. I would recommend Parker among the likes of Danez Smith, Eve. L. Ewing and Kevin Young. I was disappointed that I didn’t like them more, because the messages Parker has in them are powerful in themselves, even with the poems’ structures sometimes falling short.
- “I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background” (3-4)
- White bites: I stain the uniform.
- “And Cold Sunset” (11)
- “If you are over staying woke” (52-54)