“As a work of literary nonfiction, the book conflates the life of the poet—who began the 46-poem cycle while she was pregnant and living in Havertown, PA—with the controversial superstar rapper.”—Peter Crimmins, WHYY - Newsworks
Identities are formed and broken in this unauthorized lyric biography
Mr. West covers the main events in superstar Kanye West’s life while also following the poet on her year spent researching, writing, and pregnant. The book explores how we are drawn to celebrities—to their portrayal in the media—and how we sometimes find great private meaning in another person’s public story, even across lines of gender and race. Blake’s aesthetics take her work from prose poems to lineated free verse to tightly wound lyrics to improbably successful sestinas. The poems fully engage pop culture as a strange, complicated presence that is revealing of America itself. This is a daring debut collection and a groundbreaking work. An online reader’s companion will be available at http://sarahblake.site.wesleyan.edu.
Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS
Reviews / Endorsements
“The central connection Blake makes . . . is between herself, as impending mother to a son, and Kanye's mother, Dr. Donda West. A touching elegiac strain is evident throughout these poems of motherhood.”—New York Times Review
“…neither the cynic nor the realist need worry that Blake is merely using that mercurial genius as an attention-grabbing gimmick. No, Mr. West is a book that is in utterly good faith.”—Andrew DuBois, The New York Times Book Review
“Impressive for both its hybridity and its ambition . . . Mr. West is an important entry into the ongoing literary conversation on race that would be worthwhile to read alongside Claudia Rankine's Citizen and Kevin Young's The Grey Album.”—Kathleen Rooney, Chicago Tribune
“Mr. West is no simple rehashing of its subject’s well-trod life story. Rather, Mr. West serves as bible, myth, apology, defense, and memoir. The whole thing memorably swirls around its enigmatic and challenging muse, who in turn acts as God, as son, as lover, as martyr, as monster. The result is engaging and often dazzling.”—Danny Caine, Los Angeles Review
“By putting [Sarah Blake & Kanye West’s] lives in conversation, she provokes her readers to wonder: ‘What are we able to know about superstars, as far as we are from their fabulous orbits? What are we ever able to know definitively about the experience of someone else?’ Her answer: people have a great deal to learn from their experience of celebrities, particularly the feeling—familiar to all who have considered themselves fans—of identifying with a person whom one has likely never seen in person.”—Poetry Foundation
“Through her poetry, Kanye becomes as sharp and multifaceted as a diamond, with a reflection that changes every time you look at it.”—Elisabeth Donnelly, Flavorwire
“In Mr. West, the complicated relationships between poet and artist, poet and legacy, poet and source material, artist and legacy, and any permutations thereof create a new kind of modern myth—the kind that, even though it may be a fabrication, can actually have personal meaning.”—Douglas Luman, Found Poetry Review
“In Blake’s collection of lyric meditations, the blend of her own personal threads against Kanye’s public self are intriguing, and her pop culture commentaries allow the distraction against her being able to dig further into what, at times, becomes a deeply personal and revealing work.”—Rob McLennan, Rob McLennon's Blog
“Mr. West transforms the poet’s fascination with the rapper into an amazing group of poems that explores what she knows or can find out about West, alongside her own life. The poems construct West as unmistakably human and larger than life—as much like as unlike the poet. The work is tender without being sentimental, funny without being cruel, and obsessive without being exploitative. It is a study in nuance and it is strangely moving.”—Evie Shockley, author of the new black
“The plagiarism and copyright battles of the twenty-first century are the equivalent of the obscenity trials of the twentieth. If you’re not making art to be copied, you’re not really making art for the twenty-first century. Taking a page from Kanye West’s book, Sarah Blake embraces and enacts the long history of sharing and sampling from rap music, single-handedly and elegantly bringing poetry into the present moment. Media saturated & wildly musical, brilliantly original & stunningly plundered, this book is now.”—Kenneth Goldsmith, author of Uncreative Writing
From the Book:
God Created Night and It Was Night
Let there be Kanye at the wheel of a black SUV.
Let Kanye fall asleep.
Let the SUV hit another car with another man.
Let that man's legs break and be broken.
Let Kanye be trapped in the car.
Let there be the men that cut him out.
And there was evening and there was morning.
Let Kanye’s mother and girlfriend arrive.
Let the women take care of him.
Let Kanye see his face.
Let the doctor reconstruct his face.
Let Kanye have the breath of life.
Let Kanye lie that he had not fallen asleep.
And there was evening and there was morning.
Let Kanye tell the truth.
Let Kanye’s jaw be wired shut.
Let Kanye write a song.
Let Kanye sing it through that wire.
Let the song reach over all the earth.
Let lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon Kanye.
Bring forth Kanye according to his kind.
SARAH BLAKE is the founder of the online writing tool Submittrs and a recipient of an NEA Literature Fellowship. Her poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Drunken Boat, FIELD, and The Threepenny Review. She lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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