Head Off & Split (Finney)

At some point late in high school / early in college (late 80s / early 90s), a t-shirt started to appear. On the back it said, “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand.” Those shirts used to make me angry. I thought they should say, “It’s a black thing, you’d better understand.” For the first time in my reading experience, I’m wondering if this National Book Award winning collection of poems just wasn’t meant for me. It seems to appeal to an audience that has a life experience, a history, that I lack. The language is artful, the images, especially those related to fish, memorable. But I’ll have to re-read it to see if I can make meaning of more of the poems for myself. If you haven’t seen her acceptance speech, watch it now.




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