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POETIC PEOPLE POWER

THREE SPOKEN WORD SHOWS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE

A rousing triptych of poetry as a weapon against apathy, ignorance, and inaction.

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A poet and activist who founded the nonprofit organization Poetic People Power puts poetry performance on the page in this collection of shows.

For Bracco, poetry is how people come to understand the stakes of what’s happening in the world around them. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the organization she founded, she presents transcriptions of three of its collaborative spoken-word shows, grounded in three great threats to society: climate change, misogyny, and human rights abuses. In an introduction, she shares her own journey as an artist in 1990s New York City, during which her work “didn’t fit neatly into literary or slam poetry,” but she was determined to continue creating. The result was an organization that, like poetry, eludes easy definition. These three works combine poetics, research, history, activism, and theatrical elements; two were produced on Zoom due to pandemic-related precautions. Each includes a collective opening scene with commissioned poets each writing their own works (sometimes collaboratively) on the show’s themes. While not all the poems are compulsively rereadable without the energy of performance, Bracco and her collaborators largely present works whose urgency translates well to the page. Bracco’s scene from “While We Were Sleeping,” about human trafficking, is a good example: “And I re-learn a truth that I already know: / women are always vulnerable. / And the line between safety and danger is so thin / like the slice of the knife mark he left on her neck, / but the damage is longlasting / like the crush of broken bones that ache / for years after.” A poem by Karla Jackson-Brewer from the show “Can You Hear Me Now?” about her enslaved ancestors is similarly powerful: “She is compelled, / Driven by an urge / So primal and transgressive. / SHE WILL RISK / Slave patrols and whip / To find it.” Art and artists sound alarms on social issues that governments either don’t see or ignore, and this book shows how they might continue to make noise to help change the world.

A rousing triptych of poetry as a weapon against apathy, ignorance, and inaction.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2024

ISBN: 9781960329233

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Cornerstone Press

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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