Magical Negro (Paperback)
A National Book Critics Circle Poetry Award Winner!
From the breakout author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé comes a profound and deceptively funny exploration of Black American womanhood.
"Morgan Parker's latest collection is a riveting testimony to everyday blackness . . . It is wry and atmospheric, an epic work of aural pleasures and personifications that demands to be read—both as an account of a private life and as searing political protest." —TIME Magazine
A Best Book of 2019 at TIME, Elle, BuzzFeed, the Star Tribune, AVClub, and more.
A Most Anticipated Book of 2019 at Vogue, O: the Oprah Magazine, NYLON, BuzzFeed, Publishers Weekly, and more.
Magical Negro is an archive of black everydayness, a catalog of contemporary folk heroes, an ethnography of ancestral grief, and an inventory of figureheads, idioms, and customs. These American poems are both elegy and jive, joke and declaration, songs of congregation and self-conception. They connect themes of loneliness, displacement, grief, ancestral trauma, and objectification, while exploring and troubling tropes and stereotypes of Black Americans. Focused primarily on depictions of black womanhood alongside personal narratives, the collection tackles interior and exterior politics—of both the body and society, of both the individual and the collective experience. In Magical Negro, Parker creates a space of witness, of airing grievances, of pointing out patterns. In these poems are living documents, pleas, latent traumas, inside jokes, and unspoken anxieties situated as firmly in the past as in the present—timeless black melancholies and triumphs.
About the Author
Morgan Parker is the author of There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé and Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Tin House, the Paris Review, The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, Best American Poetry 2016, the New York Times, and the Nation. She is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, winner of a 2016 Pushcart Prize, and a Cave Canem graduate fellow.
Morgan Parker's latest collection is a riveting testimony to everyday blackness . . . It is wry and atmospheric, an epic work of aural pleasures and personifications that demands to be read—both as an account of a private life and as searing political protest.
— Glory Edim
2019 justly belongs to Morgan Parker. Her poems shred me with their intelligence, dark humor and black-hearted vision. Parker is one of this generation’s best minds, able to hold herself and her world, which includes all of us, up to impossible lights, revealing every last bit of our hopes, failings, possibilities and raptures.
— Danez Smith
This collection further evidences Morgan Parker’s considerable consequence in American poetry.
Morgan Parker continues to fearlessly explore what it means to be a black woman in the United States today. . . . Bold and edgy, the writing spotlights the strength and tenacity that enable the speaker to survive grief and inequity. It also gives voice to her disappointments and delights as she claims—and proclaims—agency over her body and her life.
From dating white boys to imagining what Diana Ross was thinking in that famous photo where she licks her fingers after eating a pair of ribs, Parker’s second poetry collection runs the gamut. But each poem is written with her signature wry humor and caustic honesty.
Morgan Parker’s poetry is vital, in both senses of the word. Her most recent collection, There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyoncé, was an absolute knockout—a breathtaking exploration of black womanhood, culture both pop and past, bodies, minds. Poetry’s defenders need not answer those who would sing its dirges, but if they did, Parker’s work could serve as an indisputable response.
— Literary Hub
Told with Parker’s signature lyricism and humor; her poems have the ability to soothe and to incite, she nimbly creates spaces for you to rest while reading, and let the power of her words and message sink into you like a heavy stone into water, or a hot knife through butter. It’s nothing short of triumphant.
Parker’s voice is surprising, ranging from elegiac to conspiratorial to ecstatic; she interrogates both blackness and femininity like ports in a long personal journey, as places to land but also as points of departure.
Fierce, playful and political, Parker’s poems celebrate the everyday just as they face off ancestral hurt. . . . Holding history and the contemporary to account, Magical Negro meets prejudice with an unwavering eye.
Parker’s poetry seamlessly intertwines moments of intimate introspection, euphoria, desire, and sorrow with reflections on the psychological and spiritual legacy of Black America.
Parker's poetry is lyrical, humorous and bold. She holds nothing back in this collection, and the reader never asks her to.
As witnessed in this third collection, blackness cannot be confined to a simple definition. Parker writes of the black experience not as an antidote or opposite to whiteness, but a culture and community where irreplicable nuances are created in spite of, not because of, pain and trauma.
It’s a cliché to call a work of art a conversation starter, but this book is. One could spend hours discussing not only the whole collection, but each individual poem. . . . Dizzyingly interdisciplinary . . . A book that delights and astonishes even as it interrogates.
A searing indictment, an irreverent lampoon, and a desperately urgent work of poetry, to be read alongside the work of Eve L. Ewing, Tiana Clark, and Nicole Sealey.
If you're anxious for your snug perspective to be rattled and ripped asunder, for the predictable landscape you stroll to become all but unrecognizable, for things you thought you knew to slap you into another consciousness—brethren, have I got the book for you. Bey's bestie continues her reign with this restless, fierce, and insanely inventive way of walking through the world. Once again, children—ignore Ms. Parker at your peril.
— Patricia Smith
Magical Negro is unsettlingly new: a book that incisively explores states of black womanhood with astonishing buoyancy and grief. I can't stop thinking about the songs it sings, songs that feel inevitable and yet unvoiced, complex and yet urgent; poems that are steeped in pop culture and the here-and-now of actual life while also being refracted through the darkest lens of American history. To read it is to wonder what each poem will do next, and to be reminded, over and over, of Parker's extraordinary lyric gifts.
— Meghan O'Rourke