Amos (The Embryo of My Manhood: First Edition, 2014) offers a new collection of poetry, influenced by rap.
The line between rap and poetry has always been unclear, and lyrical masterpieces recently produced by Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Eminem have only blurred it further. In this volume of poetry, Amos plays quite productively in the space between these two art forms. In “Genocide,” he writes, “My style of teaching is similar to Tupac and other great lyricists.” But perhaps a more obvious influence is a fellow Detroiter: “My favorite rapper was Eminem,” the author adds. Eminem is relentless with his rhymes; in older songs like “Stan” and newer pieces like “Survival,” the rapper doesn’t let artificial schemes determine the number of his rhymes. He will stop when he’s good and ready. Amos is similarly (and admirably) persistent. Readers see his doggedness in poems like “Flatline”: “I can’t save you. / I wasn’t given the utensils to open society’s wound and surgically remove its / stereotypical labels. / I can, however, persuade you / To loan me your ears as I defer the repayment of the loan, and the interest / alone can make you ethically stable. / These words will aide [sic] you, if you’re able.” There’s a brilliance to this long linkage that moves from “save you” to “persuade you” to “aid you”—and then assonantly shifts to “stable” and “able.” There’s no similar thematic throughline in this book as a whole, as the author himself admits: “bear with me as I do a little sorting.” But whatever the collection lacks in polish, it makes up for in drive and thrill. Amos takes on desultory topics, from his dad’s absence in “No Fatherly Image” to sex in “The Big Bang Theory” to race and racism in “Black Privilege.” And he ends his elegant, powerful volume with arguably his best poem, “Imperfect.” That piece concludes, “And me? / I have a great family, a full stomach, an education, and an abundance of / support, / And apparently // I have the nerve to be complaining.” Amos can complain, but readers likely won’t. This is fine stuff.
With this invigorating torrent of words, the author should leave readers energized and inspired.