The poems of award-winning poet Yona Harvey’s much anticipated You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love follow an unnamed protagonist on her multidimensional, Afro-futuristic journey. Her story stretches the boundaries normally constraining a black, female body like hers. Half-superhero, half-secret-identity, she encounters side-slipping, speculative realities testing her in poems that appear like the panels of a comic book. Music directs readers through large and small emotional arcs, constantly re-troubled by lyric experimentation. Harvey layers her poems with a chorus of women’s voices. Her artful use of refrain emphasizes the protagonist’s meaning-making and doubling back: “Who am I to say? The eye is often mistaken. Or is it the mind? Always eager to interpret.” Our hero gets captured, escapes, scuba dives, and goes interstellar, and she emerges on the other end of her journey renewed, invoking the gods… “Taunt the sharks & when the glaciers get to melting, / all God’s Rivers we shall haunt.”
“I was seduced by the independence of his mind”
after Bahiana by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier
You never wear cologne. You give
& you give & you give & you give.
& they take from you.That’s their business.
You are mine. Or so you say
with a wink. I want to tell that stupid girl
to shut the hell up about the sonnet.
But you shrug. Just a girl, you say.
You once saw seabirds in her
skirt, a blue, irregular outline,
a neglected island. & anyway, cologne
is for boys who need a hint. Just don’t
tell their young lovers too soon. Give them
the feathered headdresses & coconuts they imagine,
the little trees that bear chocolate fruit.
This wondrous collection by Yona Harvey shows the pathos, pain, range and rage of a Black woman’s knowing. Varying between understatement, definitive statement and the undertow of others’ statements, Yona’s poems ring clear and sneak up on you. Next thing you know, you’re the frog and her waters, boiling.
In the center of wisdom made from crushing rocks against boulders, Harvey’s brilliant lyric lives in the resistance of black women whose presence on this soil is now in its fifth century. In You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love Yona Harvey shows how an original poetic lives in the marrow of the immortal bones of ancestry. The events of her life have moved the poet to write fiercely of her children and of loss, as well as the failures of the country where she was born. When the poet speaks to the soul sickness of men and of America it is with the generational wealth that is her inheritance, a wisdom that is the greater galactic mass to balance the more recent visions of black immigrants. Her voice is essential to making a cultural wholeness that would otherwise be impossible. This lyric, this unique, multimedia gift is evidence of an awakening only a few poets ever approach, an awakening that is the reward for an unfaltering belief in love’s profound nature.
Harvey (Hemming the Water) explores in her striking latest the relationship between freedom, social justice, and the lyric imagination. Spanning a variety of literary forms, from prose poems and lyric fragments to sonnets, the work in this frequently gorgeous collection is unified by its concern with cultivating and articulating a collective consciousness….Readers will be captivated by Harvey’s voice and vision.