While Smudge by Mahogany L. Browne is out of print in stores and on-line, you can try for pre-loved copies or on Button Poetry’s website as well. The reason I am reviewing this book is not just because I read it, but this is a book that needs to be talked about.
First, I was not the audience the book really was meant for. I am old fashioned when it comes to poetry. I like a nice box for my poetry. Granted, it can be unique in the subject, or even the way it is styled on the page. It can be meant to be read aloud, so the flow is different when reading, but I do like to be able to understand the words. Brown speaks in a vernacular I am not familiar with.
Second, the poems are powerful and lovely. For the right reader. She is an African-American woman writing for today’s African-American woman. Amazon’s review says, “a complex portrait of a girl who deserves more than what she is given” and that is true. And it says, you will “feel deeply the girl’s fears and her humiliations” which is also true. You can sometimes see yourself. Some will see themselves in the sister relationship; some will see themselves in the friendships; some will see themselves with how they react to sexual situations and how others react to them.
Finally, the nontraditional way the words are formatted on the page, the seeming lack of titles and no illustrations can be offsetting at times. This is not a “sit down and read in one sitting” kind of book. This is one that you need to sit and read one page. Start over. And then keep going. You will most likely have to read it again.