By Britteney Black Rose Kapri
$16; Haymarket; 55 pages
In her poem "a reading guide: for white people reading my book," Britteney Black Rose Kapri writes "this book isn't for you. it's a celebration of my Blackness, my Queerness, my Hoeness, none of which exists without the other." In full disclosure, as a white reviewer, I cannot understand this book the way Kapri's intended readers dothe foreword by Danez Smith welcomes Black readers and contextualizes Kapri's work for them. What I can do is tell you about my experience reading it as an outsider and why it's important that all kinds of people read this book, even though it's not meant for us.
Kapri stated in an interview for another Windy City Times article, "the only speaker in this collection is me." She brings her entire experience, her entire self to the page, calling her readers to do the sameat the same time maintaining complete control of what she's revealing to her readers and when, with an exacting attention to her modes of speech. This book is powerful because it doesn't allow you to "accidentally forget who you are. or where you are." It challenges readers to keep up with turns both sharp and sly, speaking on levels far below the surfacethough the surface messages pack their own punches.
These poems live in the real world. Screenshots of Kapri's tweets scattered throughout the book with proclamations like "Sia 'leaking' her own nudes so someone couldn't sell them is the cornerstone of my feminism" call attention to the art of a good tweet, a super-decontextualized medium that requires readers to bring their own awareness and sensibilities to each encounter, as Kapri demands in her poems. The content in Kapri's tweets puts poems with similar messages and references into the context of her day-to-day consciousness, adding another dimension of reality and community. These poems exist in a timeline measured by the date and time stamps on the tweets, not in the imaginary realm of poetry that aims for universal appeal.
Obviously, a few of the messages in this book were for ( white ) people like me. For instance, "purple" gives a nuanced account of how white people demonize Black life with their language, even when race isn't the issue at hand. But what do outsiders do with the bulk of this book, the experiences we will never have, the jokes we can't laugh at? Kapri addresses this in "a reading guide: for white people reading my book." Read this poem first if you want. As for me, I can remember the pain and fear in poems like "pink crayon", the joy in poems like "the day my nudes leak," the humor in many of the poems, especially "before they can use it against you" and "pansexual," the lust in "bad feminist," and the tenderness. I can respect their value to the speaker and be less judgmental of others for these things I haven't experienced myself. And also encourage others to go pick up a copy of Black Queer Hoe.