Tawanda MulaluApr 24, 2023
Please Make Me Pretty, I Don't Want to Die
Princeton University Press 2022
Please Make Me Pretty, I Don't Want to Die (Princeton UP, 2022) explores tactility, sound, sensuality, and intimacy. Set across the four seasons of a year, these fresh and original poems by Tawanda Mulalu combine an inviting confessional voice and offbeat imagery, and offer an appealing mixture of seriousness and humor.
The speaker of these poems probes romantic and interracial intimacy, the strangeness and difficulty of his experiences as a diasporic Black African in White America, his time working as a teacher's assistant in a third-grade classroom, and his ambivalent admiration for canonical poets who have influenced him, especially Sylvia Plath. Juxtaposing traditional forms such as sonnets and elegies with less orthodox interjections, such as prose-poem "prayers" and other meditations, the collection presents a poetic world both familiar and jarring--one in which history, the body, and poetry can collide in a single surprising turn of image: "The stars also suffer. Immense and dead, their gasses burn / distant like castanets of antebellum teeth. My open window / a synecdoche of country."