The Crazy Bunch

Penguin. (Poets). Apr. 2019. 128p. ISBN 9780143132691. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9780525504627. POETRY
OrangeReviewStarWinner of the 2004 PEN Open Book Award, Perdomo (The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon) explores his city, Harlem, in a mixture of poetry and narrative that together dramatize his observations and encounters. As he navigates the New York borough, touching on its history, people, music, struggles, and cultural diversity, his poetry works as an act of seeing, which makes each perception a form of knowledge and awakening. But if Harlem is the poet's primary stage, that stage is intersected by a range of issues such as justice, friendship, loneliness, love, and art. Here, the poet is a wanderer trying to reconcile local specificity with universal space, and he focuses on intimate details to conjure up worlds of love and uncertainty: "We used to say/ that's my heart right here/ As if to say/ Don't mess with her right there." A rapid succession of images captured in lyrical language gather the glistering jolts of surprises, everydayness, intimacies, tragedies, and dreams in people and objects.
VERDICT Perdomo flowingly records a voyage of reminiscence undertaken with friends to identify and coalesce the crucial aspects of this most memorable place. Highly recommended.
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