I get it. I get it. I get it. This is a “choreopoem”. It isn’t supposed to be read but performed, but hey, you publish it and put it in a bookstore and I’m gonna read it. That’s just the kind of girl I am. As I was reading this book I found it challenging to review. Should I look at it as poetry? Should I take it as a play? Lyrics? At times it is all of the above, so I genuinely don’t think my grade will meet a universal expectation of grades. This was so close to a C- that I teetered on the brink and eventually I had to go with D+, because it is written and I am not seeing a theatrical performance. I believe that I’d enjoy the show.
As for the poem/play that I read. Portions of it were genuinely beautiful. The poem focuses on seven women (or colors) who tie various scenes together and who are neither narrators nor characters exactly. And at the same time they are both characters and the narrator… and they dance? This is why I think I need to see it. The play weaves in and out of different stories/images/songs. Some are compelling. They tackle themes you often find in feminist literature, love, duty, sexual awakening, rape, subservience, abortion, etc. That is probably my biggest problem with the poem per se. Shange seeks to encompass what it means to be an african american woman. It was written originally over 40 years ago and even then, I can not see every African American woman feeling that their lives were so bleak. The play is meant to be empowering in a girl power sort of way, but when you discount love and nurture and highlight the ugliness of life for ugliness sake… well, while it might reflect some experiences, it certainly doesn’t reflect ALL experiences. I understand the author was trying to make a point about what it means to be black and a woman, but it doesn’t seem to empower, it comes across as “pity me, pity me, my life is hard”.
I’d like to see a production of this, perhaps it would be more powerful than just reading the words, but as a short story/poem. This just didn’t do it for me.