Bloodshot Monochrome. That is a powerful title that catches the eye! When I first picked up this collection of poems I had a feeling I would dig them. I immediately realized that these poems were meant for a dark bar with a hipster crowd that would hear a raw and powerful poem and commend the performer.
Its easy to picture the scene when you have watched some of Agbabi’s performances. Performance poems take on brand new meaning that can never fully be appreciated on the page.
In this collection she covers political and social issues including womanhood, sexuality in all different forms, freedom of expression, and what it means to have more than one identity. Her medium of expression I think is the most effective for her message. It is accessible and potent to an audience that may be struggling with exactly what she is talking about.
In the Problem Pages section of the collection Agbabi continues to fascinate by reaching back in time for answers to very present problems. In one poem, Send My Roots Rain, Agbabi has a priest who is questioning how he can continue to write poetry when he is torn between his ordained practice and his passion. This eludes to Gerard Manley Hopkin’s sonnet, Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend. In this poem Hopkins is asking God why sinners seem to prosper. He is having an argumentative dialogue with God that leaves him torn. Agbabi takes this and applies it to the ‘inspiration not publication’ argument. She advocate for poetry as art, not as profit. She cleverly uses language such as ‘thwart’ and ‘demote’ which are directly dissected from the original poem. She tells this modern day priest to write daily just like he prays daily.
This poem gave me food for thought not only because of its advocation for daily practice to hone a craft and to improve creativity, but because it reaches to the past to solve problems. She is wise to use the great literary canon as an example for what to do, or not to do. Just like Virginia Woolf she is aware and learned about the great past authors so that she can have more authority in breaking boundaries and moving forward. Agbabi is a woman who is rewriting London and plowing a path for other woman to follow or at least take inspiration from.
Spoken word poetry is a powerful place for women to take a stand. It allows for women to do exactly what they have never been allowed to do in the past, show there true selves! Women have gone from being anonymous to being on stage, front and center, shouting and singing and speaking with their own voices. This is revolutionary and every time Agbabi or any other spoken word poet enters the stage she is making a statement just by her presence!
If you are interested in other female spoken word poets here are some links to some incredible ones.