Poetry Is Not a Luxury Book Club
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 @ 7pm
Monk Eats an Afro by Yolanda Wisher
Yolanda's Philly launch party for Monk Eats an Afro at Big Blue Marble is legendary. The store was packed, the music went on for hours, the energy was through the roof and walls, and (we are booksellers after all) the sales were so busy Yolanda had to keep bringing more cases of books out of her car.
And that was before she was named Philadelphia's 3rd Poet Laureate!
Below you'll find a collection of resources to help you explore the book and the poet. Read up, because Yolanda will be visiting our book club as we discuss her book!
Cold Front Magazine, Best Poetry Books of 2014:
Yolanda Wisher’s Monk Eats an Afro is the most complete and perfectly constructed book of poems I read in 2014. Each poem seems built ideally unto itself and in the context of the full product. Every single note and line break is perfectly suited to the mood or condition of the poem, and she keeps our attention by fitting the entire manuscript with interludes–“Songs” that are deeply felt, that are deeply musical, and that read like standardsYolanda Wisher on finding out she was the next Philadelphia Poet Laureate in Philly Voice
How did you react when you first heard the news that you’d be the next poet laureate?I danced to a Missy Elliott song on the third floor of my house.
Philadelphia Neighborhoods, Interview with Yolanda Wisher
Poetry has always been a healing tool. I grew up in a house that was embroiled in some domestic violence and addiction and poetry was my outlet, so I knew what kind of space it was able to create. And I also knew what kind of dreams it could make for me.Poetry Society of America on Yolanda Wisher
So, as much as I can see that and connect with that in other people, regardless of age, I want to support it and guide it and create a space for it. Knowing that not everybody is going to want to be a professional poet, but the tools of poetry, expression, giving form to your emotions and your ideas, all of the little minute things about the craft that I learned as an undergraduate and graduate student can be boiled down to some way of connecting with people, some kind of human relationship.
Yolanda Wisher's debut collection of poems Monk Eats an Afro is blues: sorrow, soul, rhythm, breath. The poems in this collection coincide with italicized song lyrics (Wisher is a singer and musician, not just a poet). The narrator of these poems often speaks to the reader colloquially (recounting stories, images) then shape-shifting words, sounds, and meanings. "I be the ruby flo / I be the ruby flowin / that jewel / anciently / aggravatin / undulatin..."
Poetry Foundation on Yolanda Wisher
Wisher’s poems are musical, playful, and brutal, and she infuses spoken language with blues-informed cadence to engage themes of intimacy, power, and identity. In a 2014 interview with Lynn Rosen for the Philadelphia City Paper, Wisher stated, “I definitely saw early on the job of the poet being [to create] a collective and collaborative experience. I love the solitary experience of writing and mulling over and reflecting on things. But something about the exchange, whether it’s through a reading or a workshop, … the communal experience of poetry really speaks to me.”
Publishers Weekly on Monk Eats an Afro
“You are Black/ and have a right to this// this be your fiddle/ claim it,” announces Wisher in her debut collection, a blend of beat and slam poetry, peppered with lullabies and ballads. For all of Wisher’s songsmithing, her poems are strongest for their dexterous mix of gall (“America, you beautiful suitor of indigenous bitches. I am a slaveship and you are a skyscraper”) and lyric restraint (“the trees/ were her lovers/ the wet earth/ her alibi/ she knew the way/ forward/ was going back/ and she gathered us up”).Hear Yolanda perform some of the poems from Monk Eats an Afro, including "Ruby Flo"