Wild Like That Good Stuff Smellin Strong - review by Sapphire

Wild Like That Good Stuff Smellin Strong By Tish Benson

Pub. 2003

173 pages

In 1977 Ntozake Shange introduced the word "Choreopoem" into the then, as it is now, predominantly male, white, and often stale landscape of American theater. She broke ground, developed an entirely new format for expression as she took her Choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enough to Broadway. Ntozake broke open a closed world. She was a first. Tish Benson is her absolute inheritor and Wild Like That ... -- a new generation's war cry, keen, and birth holler all in one -- is our inheritance. From the very first words of Wild Like That ...  where TB2WRITE does a fierce verbal fisticuffs with her alter ego T, who tries to tear her tongue out with: "I don't appreciate you talkin' about my mother ...  If it wasn't for her where would you really be?" Instead of dying, turning in on herself and fabricating an idealized child/girlhood, lying and essentially rendering herself a propaganda machine for the black middle class, T shouts, "No I won't shut up!" This is a book bad as the bible, crammed with truths, stories, tall tales, terror and transformation being told in a language so black and bold as to be magic (and, as she notes, to the uninitiated unintelligible!) Tish Benson, in knocking the iconic mother off her pedestal, writes her way into his/herstory as she chants through territories of family, race, and gender. She renders the stories of black life as they are -- hard, sometimes dirty, and oft times magic. We come to the end of this book knowing we have been in the hands of a magician, a mainline transformer who pulls from a head of "mop headed locs" the new world of black literature as it is being lived and created today. Wild Like That ...  talks exactly as we speak confounding the cleaned confusion that passes for much of today's poetry. Tish Benson is herself, this is not Ntozake Shange all over again although the sassy step of genius dances throughout this book. Although word rules here in this stunningly lyrical volume, she is not another Harryette Mullen. Tish Benson, while hearing the cacophony of black voices and female voices that have gone on before her, is devastatingly and unequivocally herself. By being herself, she gives us back the selves we have lost, reconnecting our tongues severed by theft, shame, abuse, and neglect. Immersing herself in the voices that came before her, Tish Benson has created a new literature, wild and wonderful.

from Wild Like That Good Stuff Smellin Strong

--Sapphire's Introduction