As “Beautiful” as She Wants To Be (2024)

As “Beautiful” as She Wants To Be (1)

Morgan Parker ’10’s new book of poetry is “a love letter to black women”

Browsing Morgan Parker ’10’s poems, one might assume she has been scribbling free verse since childhood. Her style is easy, imagistic and fluid; Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith calls Parker’s writing “acrobatic.” The turbo-charged speed of Parker’s literary rise only increases the sense of a discipline derived, like athleticism, from a hardcore, lifelong practice. Parker has already published two books and was selected for the all-star lineup in The Best American Poetry 2016, as well as for a prestigious 2017 NEA Literature Fellowship. Her celebrity fans include Lena Dunham and counterculture poet Eileen Myles.

As “Beautiful” as She Wants To Be (2)

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

But poetry is a genre Parker fell into as a College student. She grew up in Highland, Calif., a conservative suburb of Los Angeles, the child of a firefighter and a county employee (“really, really regular people,” she told The New Yorker in April). Parker wrote stories and essays and daydreamed about moving to New York City and becoming a writer — but not, ugh, a poet, she recalled for CCT: “Poetry is a weird genre, and I didn’t feel like it was for me.” That all changed in a creative writing seminar taught by visiting poet Josh Bell. The class read contemporary poems, not the “horrible” works from her high school syllabus. Parker wrote a poem each week, responding to different prompts. She made jokes and talked about herself — “things I wouldn’t say out loud.” Something opened up for her.

She still talks about the oddness of poetry, but now it’s with affection. It’s clear how much the genre has given her — how it allows her to reach out and self-reveal in a way that’s both extroverted and inclusive. When Parker’s poems are described in interviews or reviews, the word “invitation” recurs. “I’m trying to invite the reader to get to the thing with me … creating a space where they’re feeling what I’m feeling,” she says. She praises poetry’s flexibility and its ability to pinpoint the inexpressible. “A really successful poem — you almost can’t put your finger on what’s so good,” she adds. “You’re not saying the thing, you’re swirling around it.”

The works in her latest book, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé (Tin House Books, $14.95), combine vivid life observations and pop references from a young New York City woman’s point of view, spiraling them into expressive, emotionally rich designs. Twelve poems about the many-faceted Beyoncé — a celebrity who represents, for Parker, “every black woman” — blend with more personal riffs on love, race, therapy, martinis and music. Parker sees her new book as, ultimately, a “love letter to black women.” Poem after poem depicts their strength, their potential, their fatigue and anger — “everything they have been and are and will be and could be.” As she told New York magazine last spring: “I just want this to be a reminder that, look, you have permission to be as dope, as fly, as beautiful, as naked, as sad, as f*cked up as you want to be.”

— Rose Kernochan BC’82

The President Has Never Said the Word Black

To the extent that one beginsto wonder if he is broken.It is not so difficult to openteeth and brass taxes.The president is all likefive on the bleep hand side.The president be likewe lost a young boy today.The pursuit of happinessis guaranteed for all fellow Americans.He is nobody special like us.He says brothers and sisters.What kind of bodies are moveableand feasts. What color are visions.When he opens his moutha chameleon is inside, starving.

Another Another Autumn in New York

When I drink anythingout of a martini glassI feel untouched byprofessional and sexualrejection. I am a dreamerwith empty hands andI like the chill.I will not be attending the partytonight, because I ammicrowaving multiple Lean Cuisinesand watching Wife Swap,which is designed to get backat fathers, as westernized mediais often wont to do.I don’t knowwhen I got so punk rockbut when I catchmyself in the mirror Ifeel stronger. So whenat five in the afternoonsomething on my TV saystime is not on your sideI don’t give anysh*ts at all. Instead I smokea joint like I’ma teenager and eat a wholebox of cupcakes.Stepping on leaves I getfirst-night thrill.Confuse the meaningsof castle and slum, exoticand erotic. I blessthe dark, tuckmyself into a canyonof steel. I breathedried honeysuckleand hope. I live somewhereimaginary.

Lush Life

The most beautiful hearseI have ever seenis parked in front of my stoopPerched hands folded for six to eight weekstwinkling like a siren a new idea of loveTrees are planted but don’t exist yetThey are leaning non-existent into usA trough of hearts meets me in the anxious sunI could rot hereSomething like the holy spiritpours you over bruised iceThere isn’t anything more to say than holyBeautiful men never looking upon meI take music self-stirred and sleepalone curve into the morning like an almondMy shoulders lush as romanticsYou wash up on a barstoolsmooth heartache black sand

13 Ways of Looking at a Black Girl

at risk pretty Queen Latifah Nikki Giovanni Ma Tina Turner sexDyke ugly bitch sex Mamma Nene Leakes Sally Hemings t.h.o.t. Erykah Badu easybipolar Beyoncé sex kitchen rape wifey Nina Simone Nicki Minaj sex sex Whitney HoustonToni Morrison I am hungry Grace Jones for myself diva slu*tthong darkie Michelle Obama high yellow nappy flawless Audre LordeLena Horne lips Sandra Bland sex strongsex sister Wanda Sykes sassy witchlow-income sex booty well-spoken Issa Rae lesshotep beautiful Hottentot Venus sex chickenhead thick Alice Walker queen dead sex just a friendShonda Rhimes trouble sick sex mean hair bell hooks singledying tragic sex help carefree chocolate special exotic sex ratchet Felicia loud lost

Please Wait
(Or, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé)

Please wait to record Love Jones at 8:48 Saturday on BETUntil your life is no longer defined by BeyoncéAnts crawling over fallen leaves and little pieces of dog sh*tEmpty chicken boxes glowing with the remembrance of greaseThere are more beautiful things than Beyoncé: self-awareness,Leftover mascara in clumps, recognizing a patternThis is for all the grown women out thereWhose countries hate them and their brothersWho carry knives in their purses down the streetMaybe they will not get out aliveMaybe they will turn into air or news or brown flower petalsThere are more beautiful things than Beyoncé:Lavender, education, becoming other people,The f*cking skyIt’s so overused because no one’s sure of itHow it floats with flagrant privilegeAnd feels it can ask any questionEveryday its ego gets bigger and you let that happenBut one day your sh*t will be unbelievably togetherOne day you’ll care a whole lot you’ll always take vitaminsAnd exercise without bragging and words will fit perfectlyInto your mouth like an olive soaked in ginThe glory of an olive soaked in gin & its smooth smallnessA gloss will snowfall onto your cheeks, the top of your lipThe sidewalks will be the same, evidencedCombing your records you’ll see the past and think OKOnce I was a different kind of person
As “Beautiful” as She Wants To Be (2024)


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