Finna: Poems by Nate Marshall

finnaI don’t feel I could possibly have the words to do justice to Nate Marshall’s collection of poem, Finna. The cadences are exquisite; they sound like music in my mind. There’s tension and release, perfectly placed pauses in between rushes of words. As I was reading, I was reminded of how AAVE is policed, suppressed, censored, and even mocked outside of its community. Nate Marshall hands it to readers in all its stunning glory, exploring the lives, survival, and culture of Black Americans. I hesitate to say these poems are social commentary, even though they certainly are, because that phrase feels reductive, as if this is some philosophical exercise by someone outside the experience, which of course isn’t the case. Marshall is really in touch with the working class: i haven’t seen a week of mine end since i was at least 18. vacation, you a lie & i don’t lie down for much of anything these days (“ode to vacation”). There was more than one moment where I read affirming, gender-inclusive statements, and that was wonderful to read coming from a cis author. And I love that the title poem comes almost at the end, with a hopeful, future-focused perspective: my hope is like my language is like my people: it’s Black (“FINNA”). This collection is a must-read, accessible even to those (like me) who don’t always feel confident reading poetry.