The Sobbing School , Joshua Bennett's mesmerizing debut collection of poetry, presents songs for the living and the dead that destabilize and de-familiarize representations of black history and contemporary black experience. Read more...
The Sobbing School, Joshua Bennett's mesmerizing debut collection of poetry, presents songs for the living and the dead that destabilize and de-familiarize representations of black history and contemporary black experience. What animates these poems is a desire to assert life, and interiority, where there is said to be none. Figures as widely divergent as Bobby Brown, Martin Heidegger, and the 19th-century performance artist Henry Box Brown, as well as Bennett's own family and childhood best friends, appear and are placed in conversation in order to show that there is always a world beyond what we are socialized to see value in, always alternative ways of thinking about relation that explode easy binaries.
- ISBN-13: 9780143111863
- ISBN-10: 0143111868
- Publisher: Penguin Books
- Publish Date: September 2016
- Page Count: 96
- Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.2 pounds
Series: National Poetry
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-11-07
- Reviewer: Staff
In his scintillating debut, Bennett, a performance poet and 2015 National Poetry Series winner, raises a crucial question about the writing of African-American experience: how can one convey the enormity of black suffering without reducing black life and expression to elegy? Bennett writes, when I consider extinction,/ I do not think of sad men with guns, but instead of our refusal. Bennetts poems resist conventional narratives and lyric expectations, riffing on personal and cultural history instead of directly telling a story. I know/ the respectable man enjoys a dark/ body best when it comes with a good/ cry thrown in, Bennett writes in the books opener, a skillful meditation on the performance and consumption of pain. Another poem, Yoke, uses the poets family tree to connect Jim Crowera farming to mass incarceration. Others render his background from surprising angles or in ingenious forms. Two pieces are presented as academic paper abstracts, another adopts the perspective of a cockroach, and In Defense of Passing explores the persistent ironies of coloration through science fiction. At its heart, Bennetts sharp collection is an ode to family, friendship, and culture that neither pulls punches nor withholds sentiment: despair kills: too slow to cut/ the music from a horn, or set/ my nephews laughter to dim. (Oct.)