- Damaris Chanza
Morgan Parker's There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce is Exemplary Poetry
Even after a third read, Morgan Parker's There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce still has me in awe.
Morgan Parker is the poet behind Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce, and Magical Negro. She also wrote the young adult novel Who Put This Song On? She has several accolades, such as winning the Pushcart Prize and receiving the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. She has even been called "a dynamic craftsperson" by The New York Times.
At a small bookstore near my job at the time, I did the one thing we're constantly told not to do, judge a book by its cover. I saw the odd reference to Beyonce in the title and the captivating cover photo taken by Carrie Mae Weems. Despite the numerous books in my library that I haven't even touched, I bought this poetry collection and started reading it right away.
On my first read, I spent a lot of time pausing and researching things I didn't understand. Most notably, I had to learn what Hottentot Venus meant, and I read the entire collection and couldn't develop coherent thoughts on it.
When starting to research for inspiration for my poetry, I decided to tackle this collection again. And again, I was left wondering what I had just read. Modern pop culture is intertwined with older references that take on new life within their respective poem. The way Parker uses enjambment to change the meaning of a sentence between lines kept me thinking long after I finished reading each poem. Finding a composed thought regarding the poetry collection felt impossible. I knew I was touched and inspired, but I couldn't articulate why.
Now, in celebration of Black History Month, I thought I'd revisit this book. After a third read, I've deciphered that this collection displays precisely what I love about poetry as a medium. Each poem leaves you contemplating every word you just read, yearning to find the words to describe what you just experienced. The way the poems are open to interpretation while simultaneously having a distinct message is masterful writing at work. Morgan Parker's poetry collection is an exemplary display of thought-provoking writing.
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce is about the black female experience in today's world. It drifts between personal narrative and critiquing pop culture, sometimes even using pop culture to critique life as a black woman.
A great example of this is "99 Problems." Using Jay-Z's famous song as a base, Parker lists the wide range of black womanhood's problems, from the struggles of dating flawed men to systematic oppression.
The book's running motif is Beyonce, the symbolic pinnacle of black womanhood. I imagine this is because Beyonce is not only a famous black woman, but she is praised as the culmination of a sexy, classy, and successful businesswoman, all things that are not inherently attributed to black women. The poem after the book's namesake lists all the things that are more beautiful than Beyonce, including the often misjudged sky.
The narrator struggles with vulnerability, sexuality, and self-assurance. Although the speaker is unsure of who she is and her place in the world, it's as if she finds confidence in her knowledge of pop culture, media, modern music, and social issues and uses it to explain her issues. For the narrator, no problem is more significant than another. Dating, daily cultural appropriation, systematic oppression, body image, fashion, and misogyny are all equal. Each struggle doesn't hurt more or less than another; it's all painful, shameful, and something to quietly mull over while continuing to exist in the world.