Thick with Trouble (Penguin Poets)

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The richness of language and sturdy voice that runs throughout Amber McBride’s poetry collection Thick With Trouble/ is so vivid, at times the speaker’s leap off the page to confront the reader. At other moments, the poems are so intimate, so deeply honest, you may feel you’ve stumbled on to a diary in verse. This collection is one of the most exceptional debuts I’ve read in some time.

Known for her YA novel Me (Moth), McBride moves into the world of poetry with grace and without hesitation. Broken into five sections separated by imagined tarot cards–The Devil’s Sister (Reversed), The Empress with a Whip, The Hermit Woman Named Griot, The Devil’s Sister (Upright, The Magician-est–the poems are aligned with each subheading to deliver an imagined progression of a woman’s life. The poetry is deep and referential; some poems feature conjured definitions and conversations with foundational American artists like Nina Simone and Walt Whitman . The poems are free on the page, unconstrained by any conventional form; single words or even letters are often underlined for emphasis, text is bolded, stanzas transform in length and focus.

At the heart of all of it is Black experience and women’s experience. In the poem “11 Years Old (Bleeding)” McBride tackles first menstruation with the same horror and reverence many women will recognize. The speaker, upon complaining that her first period hurts, is told “it should” by a character that could be any or all older women. In terms of Black experience, McBride’s excellent poem “I Won’t Let Anybody (Black) Die Alone” is both an acknowledgement and a promise that will stay with you long after you read it.

If you’re interested in the best of what is contemporary poetry today, Thick With Trouble should be mandatory reading.

Reviewed By:

Author Amber McBride
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 128 pages
Publisher Penguin Publishing Group
Publish Date 13-Feb-2024
ISBN 9780143137474 Buy this Book
Issue April 2024
Category Poetry & Short Stories


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