How much work are we wiling to do when a poem doesn t reveal its core to the reader after a first, second, or third read And how can we maintain the joyfulness that reading poetry brings, even when a poem is hard When a poet offers something we perceive as a challenge, and we turn away because of it, what kind of reader does that make us I m not new to poetry, and even I will say many of the poems in Indecency require patience than some other work I ve encountered, including some favorites by other contemporary poets But it doesn t feel right to take stars off the rating for that And it seems a bit lazy to give up and say something like, This book isn t for me and cease trying to enjoy, understand and really read it And it feels especially unfair to call the collection alienating or whatever I was listening to a podcast in which JPR was reading from Indecency at Greenlight Bookstore with Angel Nafis and Jayson P Smith He said something about allowing himself some selfishness when writing and not thinking so much about how readers will react to a poem This is something I believe to be especially crucial for poets relegated to the periphery of what who matters in this country and in this world And I celebrate JPR s commitment to prioritizing himself, even if it means the poems are tough I mean, even while Angel Nafis was expressing such serious adoration for the poems and a desire to teach these poems, she herself admitted she doesn t always get what s happening in these poems And this doesn t have to detract from the experience of reading them JPR also talked about focusing on the music of language in his work, which is something I often find myself migrating towards when the other layers of a poem a peculiar image, a weird metaphor, the basic gist aren t so readily available And Indecency was so full of this music, and this became so clear and wonderful when I heard the poems read aloud And then I enjoyed the sound of what I did not yet understand And then I wasn t hung up on my slowness to understand And then I admired the poems , and differently I ll be rereading this collection many times, I m sure, and I m looking forward to doing so Its density is a reward that promises to glean from it each time. Complex, clever but passionate poems The indecency of living, of being black, of being gay, of being alive in a hostile world Full of invented forms, each poem is a world unto itself but the cumulative power is intense Poetry of its time for all time. Intricate, Intimate, Difficult, And Confrontational Poems That Push At The Boundaries Of Selfhood, Skin, Culture, Sexuality, And BloodIndecency Is Boldly And Carefully Executed And Perfectly Ragged In These Poems, Justin Phillip Reed Experiments With Language To Explore Inequity And Injustice And To Critique And Lament The Culture Of White Supremacy And The Dominant Social Order Political And Personal, Tender, Daring, And Insightful The Author Unpacks His Intimacies, Weaponizing Poetry To Take On Masculinity, Sexuality, Exploitation, And The Prison Industrial Complex And Unmask All The Failures Of The Structures Into Which Society Sorts Us From the NBA longlist for poetry this is a stunning collection dealing with issues of race and sexual orientation and the intersection of the two These poems are complex and often manage to be both cerebral and visceral The author is inspired by the killings of unarmed black men and a local case of a black wrestler accused of killing others by deliberately infecting other men with HIV Societal perceptions of race and sexuality are explored The author also plays with form both the physical layout and technical structure. f ing amazing I decided to check out all of this year s National Book Award poetry short listers and this is one of the collections on that list Deep, dark purple poetry from a black gay perspective that is so constantly inventive it is barely contained or sometimes not contained at all by Reed s endless experimentation with form Beautifully literate and abrasively in your face rough but very real wake up calls A gut punch of perspective on the world we live in from one who is doubly marginalized Just when I d want to give up on a poem, a diamond made of one or two lines would emerge Can t wait to see how Reed evolves. I m back to work so this won t be as long or thorough as the other ones, I think, but that s also because this collection was incredible and at the same time difficult to access On one level, I mean this in a basic sense I frequently had to check a dictionary, Google a linguistics reference but also in some other sense that I m having trouble articulating Maybe I ll chew through it as I type this review The voice felt harsh, cold, closed, solitary, but surging with emotion anger often at people s capacities to move on so easily from others , specifically black queer, trauma , fear, loneliness, others A really compelling and kind of scarily bitter intelligent voice Reminded me of the narrator from Teju Cole s Open City Not that there aren t moments of warmth, solidarity, like Carolina Prayer Let us smell rain Let the breeze through an oak hymn the promise that keeps us waking Though that comes with its own darkness, right before Let the cop car swerve its nose into the night and not see none of them the hint of violence, a curse, in swerve Reed uses the second person in this really interesting way, one that identifies the reader with his voice, but also implicates accuses us You pile the less pleasant bits of news easily through all the sleep and line the story of years from About A White City, the incredible Retrograde where the you feels angry at their neighbors for having loud sex, and at their own vacuous erection now making controversy of your spinal wire tangle I ve been thinking a lot about anger this year, and it s also been all over the news mostly in the context of women s anger, people asking is it justified, is it useful I read a little bit of Martha Nussbaum s Anger and Forgiveness, which argues that anger is useful only if it quickly transitions into something less harmful and future oriented This position has been criticized for undervaluing anger and its role in resistance, particularly Black resistance Next to the philosophical political question of whether anger is justified useful, I feel like what Reed s you shows is that anger is real, visceral It can be cold, destructive regardless, it is real Bringing the reader into the you forces us to not ignore it, how we cause feel it.I don t know if that really makes sense But that s my attempt to parse through things A few other stray notes the titles are incredible, every title I feel is not a direct reference to something in the poem, but something that adds to it The linguistics references and what he does visually with syntax, using slashes and brackets and bolds are so, so cool I want to read a knowledgeable person s review of this collection And I want to return to it later, to really fully digest. The very best poetry is being written by young men and women of color and this book proves it once again A few years ago, Claudia Rankine wrote an awesome collection of poetry and essays called Citizen about the black experience in America It blew me away It was so incredibly well written I actually made it a point to go see the installment called Hood at the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art solely because of Claudia Rankine s incredible work in Citizen The same can be said of Justin Phillip Reed s work in his first collection of poetry and wordsmithing entitled Indecency This shite is that good At times, every poet s work is a bit obtuse and far out there too far out there Justin Philip Reed s work is like that at times, but once you know a bit about the back story or to whom or about whom the poem is written, you see how so freaking talented the poet is with forming and shaping his or her words That J.P Reed suffers PTSD because he is guilty of being black in modern America that has declared a secret war on the rights of young men and women of color is simply without peradventure His work screams about the murder of his young black soul merely by being alive and living on the mean streets of St Louis I have been there and I have seen the oppression J.P Reed writes about with the whites of my very own eyes Prejudice, race baiting and hatred run rampant in the people and neighborhoods in those parts of St Louis J.P Reed writes about in this collection of his first 38 poems Each one is strident and shocking than the next It was and is impossible to pick the very best, they are each that good.American men and women of letters, especially those of color, are the proverbial parakeets in the soul killing mine of our great nation America, we have much to discuss, much to address and much to atone for Justin Phillip Reed s work here captures so eloquently the street argot, anguish and urgency of America s black men especially gay black men of which Reed, as in the Crosby, Stills, Nash Young song says we should do, let s his freak flag fly Ironically, the state of American poetry is still exceptionally high, indeed as long as we fail to address the evils we have wrought on our brothers and sisters of color There is so much art, big, juicy bits of it, out there for all to see and experience It is a sad, but nevertheless fortunate place to be if you are as talented as Justin Phillip Reed and Claudia Rankine I hope they both live long, productive lives They both bring so much to the table and make living in modern 21st Century America so painfully exquisite Long may ye reign Wanted to love this one but couldn t understand a good amount of it Justin Phillip Reed tackles pressing topics masculinity, sexuality, white supremacy, etc with raw emotion and leaves few clean conclusions His words pack a lot of power and show his pain and the depth of his feeling The queerness and blackness of this collection, and the way Reed navigates these social identities with so much heart and vulnerability, makes Indecency a necessary addition to the existing canon of poetry Unfortunately, as someone not that well versed in poetry I found myself confused by several of these poems, such that I could grasp a few lines, an emotion, or an overall subject but couldn t comprehend the poem as a whole Unsure if this stems from my lack of poetry reading comprehension or the obscurity of Reed s language Still, would recommend this to people who like poetry and who find themselves drawn to work that questions the white, heteronormative social order through a personal perspective. I ve told this story I barely graduated.I stunted my own growth I don t know howto go home What you don t know isI needed someone like you but braver NowI just have issues with needing anyone at all.Somehow both sophisticated and brutal, Indecency, the 2018 National Book Award winner for poetry, is full of vivid imagery and beautiful language that I was constantly marveling at, but honestly a lot of what Reed was doing was over my head This book absolutely deserves five stars, and it also deserves the kind of attention I don t feel I can give it right now And so, Indecency will join Louise Gl ck s Faithful and Virtuous Night in my list of collections I need to reread someday.