I’m Always So Serious

Sarabande. Feb. 2023. 92p. ISBN 9781956046045. pap. $16.95. POETRY
In a distinctive debut illuminating Black life in the United States, Price offers a startling number of taut, to-the-point aperçus, working not so much by lyrical turn as by the captured moment, the homed-in-on truth of “overworked fathers and damaged mothers,” the “commonwealth of hooded children,” the murdered, the enslaved whose burial sites are unknown, the “bodies [that] have been thrown away.” “We can’t be free, we live here,” she explains; “what to do in a country that never wanted me…?” The plaintive observation about “the brilliant strangeness of watching everyone not you grow comfortable with themselves” gives ways to the sobering “If a tall man in/ blue is ready to do what he does, what/ does that make me but a slave?” These gemlike observations keep piling up, with the poet’s native New Orleans the main setting and New York, where she studied, also appearing. One series of poems recasts the Odyssey via If Beale Street Could Talk, while another celebrates music (a piano wittily tells its player, “I created you to glorify me”). Throughout, the poet demonstrates a keen eye for connection, as in a poem on the manifold meanings of fold.
VERDICT An assured debut from a writer to watch.
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