“Big Ben’s quarter chime
strikes the convoy of number 12 buses
that bleeds into the city’s monochrome”
Bloodshot Monochrome by Patience Agbabi is a collection of raw and visceral poetry. She approaches her poems from personas that tend to attract a lot of condescension from the public, and utilizes these characters to force the reader to identify with and realize that the speaker is not that unlike them. As many of the books and poems we have been reading have suggested, human beings are constantly attempting to categorize and separate themselves in the spaces that they inhabit; however, our most primitive desires are almost the same. All human beings search to be loved, accepted, and find some sort of power in the identity they were assigned, whether that character is black or white, gay or straight, male or female. For example, in Agbabi’s poem “Yore Just My Type,” the speaker is a gay male who is being used by someone that he met on the internet. While in today’s society, gay relationships tend to receive a lot of stigma, Agbabi makes this speaker relatable by first making the poem a persona poem. This persona poem assumes the first person narrative throughout it, which places the reader inside the head of the speaker. By human nature, when we read we ultimately seek to identify with at least one character, and most likely this will be the one using the word “I.” Agbabi also incorporates a contemporary discourse by using colloquialisms that many use in informal texting conversations: “Yore just my TYPE. I promis more than good SEX” (“Yore Just My Type” 10). Using this type of discourse and applying it to the speaker’s desire for physical intimacy makes the persona easy for the reader to relate to and evokes a sense of sympathy for the speaker as they are constantly evaded by the male they are interested in. The reader continues to feel connected with the speaker, relating to his rejection as this is something we have all experienced and we all fear. Agbabi ends the poem with the speaker’s revenge on the male who hurt him and closes with the statement “is it too late / for me to text him to make another date? / I do. this is what it says: FUCK YOU!” (“Yore Just My Type” 49-51). The reader is able to celebrate this victory of revenge with the speaker, and the gender, race, and sexual identification of the speaker becomes irrelevant because Agbabi is able to put the speaker and the reader on par with one another, she makes them equal by forcing them to understand one another through relatable situations.
In an interview Agbabi stated that in her poems she allows her characters to speak for themselves and walk a tightrope of appropriateness. She claims that she “wanted to see what happened if [she] let the characters speak for themselves rather than edit them.” This allows her poems to be more versatile and embody a broader range of people and ultimately makes her texts more accessible to more readers. The spaces that Agbabi inhabited while writing her books also effected how she chose to write about the world and the people in it. Agbabi lived in London for some time and stated that living in a large city “broadened my horizons and expectations of a partner. I’ve been out with men and women, black and white which may not have happened had I been living in a small village in the middle of nowhere. I found London stimulating as a writer.” Therefore the spaces that she allows her characters to inhabit in her poems are influenced by the spaces that she inhabits in real life. The diversity of her own surroundings have influenced her to write with such diversity as well.
More of Agbabi preforming
What is a Monochrome?
How do readers relate to characters?