“Morgan Parker Was Pretty Cool”

In some ways it’s frustrating to me that our local library doesn’t circulate any poetry in the “Classics” section. What the exclusion from “classics” does offer, though, is a sort of leveling of the playing field between the traditional old muses like Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams and scrappy, up-and-coming voices like Morgan Parker, a confrontational, vernacular-prone poetess based in Portland. For the record, I almost always like the latter category better. 

Parker was an example of someone who didn’t disappoint, too, in this regard — the prose, which was organized into line breaks, didn’t seem trite or hackneyed, and was crystal-clear, and biting. She takes a general m.o. of confrontational battle rapping, more or less, in her work. Actually, this exact thing is what about halfway through the book Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me up at Night made me tire of it — she’s got an extreme tendency to be a one-trick pony. Don’t get me wrong, there was some invigorating stuff, like the inciting of a fight between her and her roommate, and a piece about “black Miss America” which read something like “Do the white boys back it up / And are their mothers terrified”. But it was a slight lack of dynamic, a monochromatic fixation on confrontational and colloquial (I don’t think I saw a single piece wherein metaphor composed the semantic basis of the poem), that made the material eventually wear thing. 

Still, Parker is undoubtedly one of the most vital poetic figures out there today, so I just thought I’d pay her some respects on my blog here. And I didn’t really know how to do it — her work actually was such a shock to me that I wanted to let it stew in my mind for a while. I read the first half of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me up at Night about a month or so ago. 

Even though slightly low on techniques, Parker does, at times, show the ability to empathize at large and be largely humanistic. In one piece she writes something along the lines of “Blues poems are how I feel when I let someone borrow my lighter” and the result isn’t really riveting or emotional, but rather just manifesting as adjacent to a kind of central poetic truth, a former denizen of the literary collective unconsciousness now illustrated by the next person purposeful and articulate enough to come along and pick up the mess. 


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