Mr. west/gold nail polish
Let’s talk about Sarah Blake’s Mr. West. Well, first, let’s talk about Sarah Blake. A small story- I am publishing a book in October, pretend you know all about it. I was chatting to my Agent (another Sarah) and my editor (an Allyson,) about whom we might ask to blurb my book, and it was a giddy, candy shop of a conversation. After hearing many names and throwing out many outrageous names of my own, I said, half-joking, “Can we get Kanye West?” No one treated it as a joke. My agent and editor began to posit how such a thing might happen. Did so and so know a particular doorman?! Did such and such have a book club with whomever who might possibly pass someone a cake with a manuscript ensconced inside?!! Someone mentioned Blake’s book, and the troubles she’d had getting clearance for her quotes.
Well. Blake’s book came out. Quite by accident, I noticed a Facebook friend congratulating her, and I, recalling the conversation with my agent and editor, extended a friend request of my own. Lovely woman. Very positive and guileless. Will stand up for what she believes in. I like her. I ordered the book and received it, and I read it. I went back into the blurb conversation with my agent and editor asking to strike Kanye from the list. I suggested, actually, that we ask Sarah Blake for a blurb, instead.
I don’t really even know where to begin. The poems are love, pure love. This is the sort of book I would like to have written about my husband; this contains the research, the minutiae, that one would put into a book about the person they admired most it in the world. It is Blake’s gift to Kanye, but we benefit, as well. One of her own blurbers, Kenneth Goldsmith, writes that she is “single-handedly and elegantly bringing poetry into the present moment,” and I would agree with this- her poems present themselves as thoughts that are cohesive as short stories, even the most lyrical of image is cemented into place by the verses before it, with not a word wasted.
In Mr. West, we learn immediately that Blake is pregnant, married and that she understands loss in a way that makes her very keen to the life and times of Kanye West on the brink of his super-stardom. There is an alignment between author and artist; they are losing people, they are filled with joy, they are on the precipice of their new identities. She is already enveloped in her love of Kanye, a connection so deep it sometimes feels odd even to her. She discusses his life- the girls he dates, his car accident, the fracas after he called out President Bush at a telethon during Katrina- and places it beside her own in a way that is moving and sometimes hilariously funny. In the poem Adventures, she writes:
Kanye had said, in that NBC clip, “I’ve even
been shopping before
even giving a donation, so now I’m calling
my business manager
right now to see what’s-what is the biggest
amount I can give”
What is the biggest amount so that how
I can’t look up something like that.
A number I can’t imagine.
After the earthquake in Haiti, Noah and I
Donated $20 at Wegman’s
And our cashier told us it was the largest
Donation all day.
How can you not love that? That magic. How are you immune?
Blake touches on the death of Kanye’s mother with deft kindness.
And my mind asks if these are not the fingers that move freely in a dream and play some kind of music for you, she writes about a tree branch in the beautiful Dear Kanye, or run along the top of your head in the manner of one who loves you. Are they not the fingers that begin to resemble your mother’s?
There is no irony in this collection; it is sincere. So sincere. So sincere that if this book were a pumpkin patch, Linus would be sitting in it waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. She collects the media refuse and makes a scrapbook of sorts, a baby book. It does not surprise me that Blake herself, in the comments sections of various articles about her, has already become an odd artifact of Kanye’s life, or, rather to the point, of people’s frustration with him. They dislike his bravado and they mock her acceptance- they will judge the both of them without reading this book, without understanding. I feel very sorry for them.