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Poetry thrives in the slippage between a word’s multiple meanings. This is central to Canadian poet Simina Banu’s first full-length collection, POP (Coach House Books). The book is divided into five sections, each loosely based on a different meaning or association of the titular word, from soda to music to bright colors to quick movements. Banu plays with the relationship between words and images, reveling in the ambiguity of poetry comics — a form that uses lines of poetry within the visual structure of a comic book or graphic novel. Words become images, in the manner of concrete poetry, and images burst with words, as in the best image-text combinations.
The sections are connected by the metanarrative of a decaying romantic relationship; through her language and images Banu captures the way intimacy can be both desirable and suffocating. “I fantasize about annihilating / all the theories you admire / with logic, art, or gardening” she writes in “A Discourse,” from the “Greatest Hits” section, “but it doesn’t matter. / This is a love story.”
“Hold Me Tight,” from the same section, is just one line: “To get our points across, we skip words towards each other. They sink, unheard.” The text appears above a simplified graph of skipping stones — curving “V” lines across the page. In this slim volume, Banu dismantles the conventional structure of the poem by using plain language and unmetered lines with variable stanzas and line breaks. In doing so, she also presents the dismantling of her relationship. “I wasn’t a swimmer / but you insisted on confessionalism,” she admits in “Pool.” “Our poem diagnosed / me into a fugue.” Through her poetry, Banu illustrates her own slow breaking under the eyes of her partner.
Her poems are a mix of youthful displays of intellectualism (“You break the silence to mention that my clothes are rags. Therefore, Derrida uses the term ‘the textual paradigm of consensus’ to denote not discourse, but subdiscourse”) and texting or internet speech, both likely relatable to many readers. In the opening poem, “Whole Foods,” she writes, “Multitasker: you correct my posture while you Instagram an onion. / It’s a shame I can’t bake bread / with gluten / to throw at you.” The poem captures the shift from affection to constant criticism, while poking fun at the trend of baking bread and ubiquity of gluten-free diets among 20- and 30-somethings.
A number of line drawings mimic the blue and green speech bubbles that characterize text messages. One reads, “I just want what’s best for you,” with a bubble interrupting it that says, “don’t say for myself.” This blend of image and text is reminiscent of digital messages, spattered with icons of purple crystal balls, red emergency sirens, and clanking beer glasses, all of which are contextualized by the content but are still open to interpretation. For instance, “Half Time Show,” in the first section, “Food for Thought,” opens with the description, “our relationship through the years, performed by a procession of zany Pringles.” Names of flavors written in the shape of chips fall down the page: “TRULY ORIGINAL,” “JALAPEÑO,” “SCREAMIN’ DILL,” and, finally, “LOADED.” In this and other poems, she exploits the many — often humorous — connotations of words.
POP tends toward hopelessness. (One poem is a word search with a title that asks the reader to “find hope” — spoiler, it isn’t in there!) Banu’s poems don’t rush to comfort, but rather to give voice to the disillusion of love’s ending, through a cumulative effect. Individually, they read like everyday phrases, but line after line, and poem after poem, they accrue more weight. “It’s important to remove your clown makeup after destroying the life you thought you were building together,” she writes in one of the final poems. “Good grease makeup remover can keep your skin healthy and clear during periods of crying in your cubicle as you leave voicemail reminder for Toyota service appointments.”
Banu’s simple language conveys the complexity of an ending with unmistakable sadness. She expresses the realities of moving on — such as crying in public while doing mundane tasks — that are not often elevated to the level of poetry. Her combinations of graphic doodles and plainly written text leave room for interpretation and empathy; readers can fill the space between the words and images with their own tales of heartbreak and misunderstandings. Banu’s poetry celebrates those who speak of love and loss in the language of emojis and memes, and have had our hearts broken by a text a message.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.