Whether she’s penning a scathing indictment of the cult of Kim Kardashian, or composing an exalted song to those who’ve been wronged, Jameka Williams’ poetry is passionately commanding. Though animated with pop references from Beyoncé to Taylor Swift, her work is never merely playful; instead, it is a potent manifesto that seeks to spotlight the exploited, the unheard, and the harmed.
The three poems showcased here— “Brief Notes on the End of the World, Women” Since I Laid My Burden Down,” and “Ignition”—shimmy, serenade, and strike you in the jugular. “Since I Laid My Burden Down,” with its rush of intentional run-ons, is a nonstop incantation that swells with each barbed image:
in the afternoons serving an
invisible crotch one day called
to serve at a man’s zipper & he
won’t know my name or eyes
my god unwind your ideologies
from around your ovaries
Sonically stitched with “eyes,” ideologies” and “ovaries,” and continually doubling language so that a phrase like “my god” becomes both exclamation and entreaty, the poem is a hymn against destructive power pyramids: sexual, racial, religious, and economic.
In “Brief Notes on the End of the World, Woman,” Williams steers us through the apocalyptic, from wildfires to the Flint water crisis, observing in the opening stanza that “Black kids in Michigan sink / to the bottom of public pools / their bellies bulge with lead.” In the final stanza, this drowning descent is punctuated by the apostrophic plea, “America, make me impervious to death!,” before closing with the plangency and irony of the word “waterproof.”
The last piece “Ignition” is one that deserves to be read on a Black Mirror episode as it weaves its way through counterfeit connections: showcasing love’s simulacra in a world where yearning is never private and a bow-tied guy dreams of digital porn—“his desires / as pretty as a potted plant / in front of an oiled pair / of tits.” Delivering a double helix of loneliness and desire, “Ignition” invites us to “sing!” before we “flicker like flames of broken / code raining down screen.” William’s poems are vital articulations highlighting injustice—
singing and cutting in equal parts.