If seeing were easy, we wouldn’t need poetry. That’s one of the implications of Ama Codjoe’s startling debut, Bluest Nude . The poems are portraits—glimpses—of a poet who wants “to be seen clearly or not at all.” So the voice in “Poem After Betye Saar’s The Liberation of Aunt Jemima ” puts it this way: “Gonna try on my nakedness like a silk kimono”—and it’s a poem that really rips, and makes an argument for a kind of disarmament by way of openness, which is vulnerability, another kind of nakedness. A silk kimono, cuffed jeans, Timberlands, a “spa-provided robe,” “velvet robes,” “the coat hung gently / on the hook”—clothes are everywhere in this book, like so many versions of a “carapace” that both protects and hides the being within, and also “the bruises I conceal with makeup and denial.” The desire, attended upon by a fear that is partly the work of a culture of shame and partly the natural labor of any life, is to shed that carapace and be known, to unhook from the strictures and be freer, or nearer a state of rest, or stately and alive amidst all the pressure and poise of life’s soul-dulling motions. It is a desire to have a chance to grieve or be joyful, a chance to draw on eros against the entropy. In several poems the speaker is undoing herself, sartorially and spiritually. “After a Year of Forgetting,” for instance, begins with disclosure: Now I will learn how to […]
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