Poetry News

Marcus Wicker Challenges Preconceived Notions of American Blackness

By Harriet Staff
Marcus Wicker

At Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dave Harris reviews Marcus Wicker's latest collection, Silencer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). Harris writes that, at every turn, Wicker's verse upends readers' preconceived notions about race and culture. Harris: "The pol­i­tics of ex­pec­ta­tion are cuffed into Mr. Wicker’s stun­ning sec­ond po­etry col­lec­tion...The book’s ded­i­ca­tion page reads, 'For all of us,' which in turn asks: Who is us? Is it all lives? Is it all black peo­ple?" From there: 

Is it unit­ing the reader with the poet? The “us” is an in­vi­ta­tion that Mr. Wicker wea­p­on­izes, im­pli­cat­ing the reader as au­di­ence, as­sail­ant and agent.

In the open­ing poem “Si­lencer to the Heart While Jog­ging Through a Park,” Mr. Wicker writes, “Surely, I don’t have to tell you there’s a gun,” wherein the line shifts de­pend­ing on who in­hab­its the role of “you.”

The you could be a white reader who as­sumes the black man in the park is dan­ger­ous; or, the you could be a black reader who as­sumes what the white gaze as­sumes.

There are as many pos­si­bil­i­ties as there are eyes to read this. The flex­i­bil­ity of the line re-­en­acts how a black mid­dle-class Mid­west­erner must be con­scious of the self, the white ex­pec­ta­tions of the self, and then ma­nip­u­late both for his sur­vival.

Read more at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Originally Published: November 21st, 2017