The poem from which Black Under derives its title opens with a resounding declaration: “I am black and black underneath.” These words are an anthem that reverberates throughout Ashanti Anderson’s debut short collection. We feel them as we navigate her poems’ linguistic risks and shifts and trumpets, as we straddle scales that tip us toward trauma’s still-bloody knife in one turn then into cutting wit and shrewd humor in the next. We hear them amplified through Anderson’s dynamic voice, which sings of anguish and atrocities and also of discovery and beauty.
Black Under layers outward perception with internal truth to offer an almost-telescopic examination of the redundancies—and incongruences—of marginalization and hypervisibility. Anderson torques the contradictions of oppression, giving her speakers the breathing room to discover their own agency. In these pages, declarations are reclamations, and joy is not an aspiration but a birthright.
Ashanti Anderson’s Black Under is an eclectic collection of writings that celebrates the black, queer, disabled experience.
Tell Me More
I am fond of poetry, but don’t always have the opportunity to read such vital and unique pieces as those that are part of Ashanti Anderson’s Black Under. Even though this collection of poetry and writings is short, each piece provides the reader with an awakening to new experiences and history that is often glossed over or cast into the shadows. Anderson forces the reader to open their eyes and face everything about the black, queer, disabled experience that is rarely exposed. Black Under opened my eyes and expanded my empathy through the most unique collection of writings I have read to date, and I am sure it is a collection that I will be revisiting again and again.
Anderson writes from her heart and presents the reader with all of her innermost thoughts and realizations about her existence, and those around her. At times Black Under is uncomfortable, and that is the absolute beauty of it. It forces the reader to face things that we might otherwise turn from, and I feel changed after reading Anderson’s collection of writings.
If you are interested in poetry or short writings that reveal the marginalized parts of our society and history while also revealing the beauty of our differences, Black Under is sure to be a gem you will adore. I am not surprised that this work of art won the Spring 2020 Black River Chapbook Competition, and it deserves all of the praise. Pick up Black Under for a quick read that will stick with you for a long time. You are sure to be changed.
About the Author
Ashanti Anderson (she/her) is a Black Queer Disabled poet, screenwriter, and playwright. Her debut short poetry collection, Black Under, is the winner of the Spring 2020 Black River Chapbook Competition at Black Lawrence Press. Her poems have appeared in World Literature Today, POETRY magazine, and elsewhere in print and on the web. Learn more about Ashanti’s previous & latest shenanigans at ashanticreates.com.