Simone White, Of Being Dispersedby Douglas Kearney
It’s worth noting that shade throwing, shit talking, side-eying and other black rhetorical approaches, as practiced on Black Twitter and hot 16’s, may have a Lyrical Ballads effect on certain strains of contemporary poetry, and that to assume they are best fit for light work misses their weight.
To wit: Simone White’s Of Being Dispersed talks shit. Erudite she is, certainly. Any of her lines might be a spring-loaded launch pad, quick to shuttle a reader up into a cartoon where the blood is real. But she’s also investigating signifyin(g) and profanity, thus a kiss-off poem like “Don’t Nuzzle Me Fucker Maker” performs a meta-dirty dozening that ends with the speaker using a plaything (diegetically: a Tinker Toy; (non) diegetically: language itself) to put in work. “You and Me Are Not Friends, OK?” nitty-gritties like a choice fractalization of Millie Jackson.
Regarding the aforementioned blood (and what’s profane): the sequence, “Preliminary Notes on Street Attacks” is ratcheted up by tensions between Steadicam documentary:
…a lady too
told me last week not to roll my eyes at her
a few days after George Zimmerman was acquitted
and straight-faced, tragically ridiculous, though practical(!) Black Lives coaching—such as how best to be in danger if one must hope for white rescue.
These cold shifts often happen swiftly, but what remains constant is a side-eye so virtuosic that it observes sideways shit plumb. Reading Of Being Dispersed, I laughed a lot and I’m still thinking of how much that might look like crying.
Poet/performer/librettist Douglas Kearney’s third poetry collection, Patter (Red Hen Press, 2014) examines miscarriage, infertility, and parenthood. He has received residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, the Rauschenberg Foundation, and others. He teaches at CalArts, where he received his MFA in Writing (’04).