Morgan Parker disorients, stuns, and leaves us utterly invigorated by her 2017 collection of poems, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House Books, $14.95). Parker writes of the black American woman’s experience and reckons with societal understandings of beauty in a way that is devastatingly crafted and brilliantly told.
Parker’s poetry reads as a conversation, recounting emotional experiences both intimate and intimidating. The first poem of the collection is “ALL THEY WANT IS MY MONEY MY PUSSY MY BLOOD” but the reader will find no pleasure-driven sexuality here: Parker is preoccupied not with her body as a means of sexual revolution, but rather with highlighting the ways in which society expects her to offer up her body and very self.
Individual poems hold words executed so casually, so quietly, that one can hardly anticipate Parker’s intent and yet will feel the full impact of her words all the same: “All Men Have Been Created Equally / To Shiver At The Thought Of Me” from “Welcome to the Jungle,” is countered by the sobering lines that seem to be slipped in but cause one to pause such as “Will I accidentally live forever / And be sentenced to smile at men / I wish I were dead / Is loneliness cultural” from “The President’s Wife”, and in the course of a few pages we find ourselves turning back pages to reread again.
The collection was written over the last five years, and one can sense the time- lapse: dedications to pop culture and the Obama era appear throughout, reminding us that even the most detached elements of society come to mold the most intimate layers of our lives. These poems are not against Beyoncé, but Parker does not seek to make offerings, either. Beauty’s place in society is too complicated for that. Parker’s poems are beautiful not only because her utter command of language, but also because she examines beauty and what it is to truly be human in such a fundamental way.
After all, what is art if it doesn’t bring you to tears and call upon your laughter in equal measure all in the course of a few lines?