Why did I love this book?
It’s a beautiful book, from the cover to the notes. It’s a neo-slave narrative that follows various enslaved, then freed people. Through this book, I learned how poetry collections can be explorations of history based on fact.
Like any good collection, reading one poem compels you forward, but each poem can stand on its own. She is a master of form. For instance, her persona poetry is powerful. The first poem in the book, “The Trapper’s Boast,” devoid of empathy, shows the business of slavery from an undesirable point of view.
But what is moving is the ability to fall in love and to care even in the worst conditions, as well as the will to live and strive towards freedom in spite of any threats.
I started writing neo-slave narrative poems about a woman escaping slavery. I imagined that the poems I was writing, like Suck on the Marrow or Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard (also a great book), would either grow into a full-length collection or a chapbook. They did not. I had less than enough for a chapbook and I was writing poems about protest, music, and love that did not fit the neo-slavery poems, but spoke to American history and present. When compiling the poems for my manuscript, I revisited Suck on the Marrow many times, as well as other books, to understand how to organize my work.
Also, though the subject is not quite the same, we do both talk about enslaved people and getting to freedom.