4 out of 4 stars
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Our Scarlet Blue Wounds by Emmett Wheatfall is a book of poetry that examines America, race, inequality, pain, and hope. This talented poet examines the foundations of the United States of America and asks if we are fulfilling their purposes. Clearly writing through eyes that have beheld scarlet blue wounds, he declares over and again that we are not. However, his poems are not all anger and despair. This is a book authored primarily to encourage black readers, but it also reaches out to others who have experienced injustice. In "To the Negro," Wheatfall says, "Do not seek refuge in your past/The door to reentry is closed" and, "That gift by the French to America/It was meant for you, too." In the introductory poem, referring, I believe, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Wheatfall writes, "from 55-year-old timber, let us whittle a new age." What a beautiful call to action this is!"Therefore, let black men and women, artists
Who paint black men and women, be given to
Sanctifying blackness – for the beauty of the
Black body is black strength; lest forgotten are
Our scarlet blue wounds."
-- "The Black Body"
Our Scarlet Blue Wounds shares its title with the first poem in the book. Additionally, the phrase "scarlet blue wounds" is used in several poems, which acts as a device that pulls the book together. I found the choice of scarlet and blue critical. First, to me, it is vivid imagery of a severe cut surrounded by bruising. Simultaneously, it pulls out the colors of the American flag. This imagery begins on the cover, with a slightly out of focus picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., done in red, white, and blue. Why is the picture out of focus? Because, perhaps, we have lost clarity of what Dr. King advocated.
Wheatfall's poems are finely crafted. The author uses many different stanza formats, keeping the reading experience interesting. He is skilled at implementing repetition of lines for emphasis, both within and among poems. He additionally uses free verse, lines from scripture, alliteration, and other devices. I especially enjoyed his uses of imagery, like this quote from "American Abstract," "Segregated fields of mustard colored poppies bow/ and bow. Most -- blurred images."
This next item may sound like a trivial point, but stay with me and overlook the poet nerdism. I like the placement of the poems in the book. They are placed on separate pages, allowing them to stand on their own. Beyond that, I think having one per page makes reading poetry more of an experience than if poems are jammed together. Considering one poem in front of me allows me to focus on it and see what can be drawn from it as an individual piece.
I found only two typos in the book. They were not distracting, and they were certainly not enough to deduct a star. Some poems are glib, some are encouraging, and some are downright angry. All encourage the reader to consider the weight of each poem's words. Because of the strength of the content and the professional editing, I rate Our Scarlet Blue Wounds 4 out of 4 stars.
This book is evocative literature. Since the target audience is black Americans, I recommend it to all readers who are interested in African American studies. However, I also think anyone who has felt neglected by society would find confirmation in these pages. Trump fans will want to stay clear of it since he is the topic of many seething poems. I would also not recommend it to supersensitive white Americans. Any prospective readers should know that only one poem contains borderline profanity.
Our Scarlet Blue Wounds
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