Friday, February 1, 2019

Review: Magical Negro

Magical Negro Magical Negro by Morgan Parker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read these poems twice, before and after a historical novel about racism in Oregon, and it strikes a chord with me that this collection is published by Tin House. One of the poems even talks about how it's too late for her to try to live in Portland or Brooklyn (the two homes of her publishing house.) And so the poetry settles into the reality of our existence, and the need to confront discomfort if we are really going to talk about race.

Since I had a review copy I can't quote any poems directly, but I want to, so much. Morgan Parker is in conversation with many of these poems, with current events, with other poets and poems, with the white gaze, the male gaze. Several poems are titled Magical Negro #x and imagine the perspective of several key figures in history; some are broader like the one about "the black body" (it repeats "the body is a person" to great effect.)

I can't decide which collection I like more - this, which seems more of a direct response to recent events, or There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, which gave me my first introduction to the strength and unpandering resistance of her words.

Favorites from this collection:

Everything Will Be Taken Away
"...You are a woman now
but you have always had skin...."

Whites Only

Magical Negro #84: The Black Body

Ode to Fried Chicken's Guest Appearance on Scandal

If you are over staying woke (and here in audio)

I Told My Therapist I Tried to Meditate and She Laughed

We Are the House That Holds the Table at Which Yes We Will Happily Take a Goddamn Seat
"...The difference between worth
and worthless without them

is science: how it feels to not be
able to see a person, and the number

of instances when we believed
we should die. ..."

Magical Negro #80: Brooklyn
"...Lead us not into white neighborhoods.
Deliver us from microaggressions...."

View all my reviews


  1. I hadn't read very much poetry in my life, but I think it's a genre I should explore this year. This sounds like a great book!

    1. I can recommend this one AND her previous volume - There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce.


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