Content Warning: Everything

Copper Canyon. Apr. 2022. 64p. ISBN 9781556596292. pap. $16. POETRY
In prickly, immersive language replete with biblical allusion, Ezemi moves from their award-winning fiction (including The Death of Vivek Oji) to a first collection of verse that continues their exploration of self and desire. The poet may present as “a ragtag doll/ scraps from men or places where i left myself,” but the scraps we’re given—stories of childhood, of broken marriage and seesawing relationships, of negotiating the world’s hostility regarding bisexuality and race—are bound into one luminous whole. Desire, sexual and otherwise, reigns throughout (“bring me peace offerings—toffee melted into its wrapper// hold me as the sun buries itself”), but it’s also desire thwarted. Even at the speaker’s christening, the priest rejects as ungodly their chosen name—“a bank-wriggling snake”—and they are fated to live under “a white man’s sky” where they are surprised to experience “loving someone who doesn’t want to kill you.” In the end, there is healing—“when I last came out i called myself free”—but it’s not an easy road.
VERDICT Though lacking the lushness of Emezi’s best fiction, these poems urgently communicate a relatable search for identity and safety and will resonate with a wide range of readers wanting to undertake that search, too. Especially important in presenting another dimension of this gifted writer.
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