PLEASE (Western Michigan University Press) is a terrific first book by Jericho Brown, a young poet who's teaching at the University of San Diego. It's only fair to note here that Jericho was my student, but the book has such life and fire that I'd be writing about it here if I'd never met him (though Jericho's a delight and I'm very glad that I have). One of the things I admire about this book is how boldly it steps into the difficult double territory of being black and gay, without resorting to any kind of familiar certainties about either. There's an energetic un-ease about this book, and one of the ways that's accomplished is by employing a wild range of multiple speakers; Diana Ross, the lion, tin man and scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, Luther Vandross, Janis Joplin.
Here's just a brief sample, a sweetly elegaic poem that gives us a scene that barely exists in American literature: two black guys in bed.
My breath is also released
As I shiver onto my boyfriend's back.
Then open my eyes to the faces
Of my children, faintly
Sketched in white swirls
On brown skin -- the only place
He can carry them. Out of my body,
They look less like me
Than like my mother and father
Who will die when I do. Their mouths
Poised to blame, I wipe them away
Before they can speak.