Book Review: A Fortune for Your Disaster
Publication Date: Sep 03, 2019
List Price: $15.95
Format: Hardcover, 108 pages
Imprint: Tin House Books
Publisher: Tin House Books
Parent Company: Tin House Books
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Book Reviewed by Brianna-Christine Alicea
A Fortune for Your Disaster is a powerful, resonant poetry collection about forgiveness and grappling with physical and emotional violence in a political and social context. This collection from cultural critic, essayist, and poet Hanif Abdurraqib uses heartbreak and self-regeneration as the focal point of this book. The audience is provided plenty of interesting references, as Abdurraqib puts his expert music and cultural knowledge to use. Abdurraqib utilizes his pop culture knowledge in his poem, “The Ghost of Marvin Gaye Plays the Dozens With the Pop Charts,” his assertion of the violent imagery demonstrates blackness and the violence and struggles faced. “It Is Maybe Time to Admit that Michael Jordan Definitely Pushed Off” draws from the 1998 NBA finals as an entry point to address the loss of a mother.
Abdurraqib created within this book is a sensational and intricate array of poems. The author threads together the themes of loss, forgiveness, heartbreak, and racial tension through lyrical meditations, writing and titling 13 poems “How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This.” Abdurraqib displays his technical prowess with enjambment, “Forgive me, for I have been nurturing / my well-worn grudges against beauty,” (80) he creates a feeling of problems being inescapable and irresolvable. Another significant series of poems by the title, “It’s Not Like Nikola Tesla Knew All Of Those People Were Going to Die,” are essential to the collection. Late singer, Martin Gaye is referenced in eight titles, and throughout the poems themselves. While the subject or title is repeated, each poem is an individual in highlighting the violence, memory, and immense sadness by the author. While these were the bulk of his collection, these had to be my favorite from his book showcasing the most feeling.
Abdurraquib’s poems soars over three acts, and in each one he is aggressively more enticing. His application of different poetry forms brings power, empathy, and heart through the page. Many of his poems are written in the prose-poetry form, this form is not broken into verse lines, demonstrating symbols, metaphors, and figures common to poetry. His use of prose-poetry encompasses energy unfurling with a bang at the end of the line. It packs a certain intensity and rushed energy that makes the reader lose their breath and regain it within the page. In sharp contrast to the enjambments in some of these collections’ work or the poignant use of the white-space. Enjambements are a thought, sense, phrase or clause in a line of poetry that has not come to an end at the line break but moves over into the next line. Abdurraquib’s musical experience is evident while one reads to his rhythm in both the enjambment and prose-form poems.
A Fortune for Your Disaster is a beautiful masterpiece of heart, of poetic language, of resilience, and of music. The speaker draws on metaphorical resonance from pop-cultural references to reclaim the black body and black history, making it more than a series of music poems, or heartbreak poems. It’s creating a space for forgiveness and empowering us to hold memories tighter so we won’t forget, so we cherish them close to the heart. One can’t prepare for the pain they experience, but Abdurraquib’s poetry opens the heart and allows it to heal with real, uncensored writing.