Book Review: I Am You
Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
Creative. Rhythmic. Real.
I Am You is a treat waiting to be unwrapped. From the first pages of this collection, readers get to witness just what kind of creativity and discussion they’re in for—even if just by looking at it, flipping through it.
Osamase Ekhator uses white blank space, increasing and decreasing fonts, page breaks, section breaks, enjambment, heartbeat, and rhythm to tell stories and impart wisdom. It’s a physical experience—bouncing around these words like this, being able to flip so effortlessly from page to page and to hear something worthwhile in the process.
This collection is broken into four chapters: childHOOD ft. A.M. Erica, BLACK: Love It or Hate It, LIVE: BREAKING…, and Get Up. It splices short poems of social commentary with longer continuing narratives including specific characters (like A.M. Erica & Darren). The use of narrative here really balances out the singular poems, giving nods to those readers who are bouncing on the rhythms on their way to the complete discussion.
There is sound accompanying each line of each poem. Lines whip across the blank page like wind, increase and decrease in font to give us chants and whispers of vulnerability and Black love. It’s always clear that Ekhator can hit the right beats at the right time.
There are a lot of poems in I Am You that I like. “When I Die…” keeps us moving smoothly on the way to a singular story before it wraps us close with purpose: “passion / misplaced in poetry.” “Nala’s Lesson” weaves us through history despite our lives in the present, while “Rent Free (Months After)” uses enjambment and placement on the page to leave us laughing.
There are poems that I didn’t like too, though. Some can come off as a bit easy and expected, occasionally heavy-handed, and I wonder if it could have communicated a bit better with and about Black women. Chapter 3 (LIVE: BREAKING…) might spiral a bit out of control too. The collection might miss sometimes, yes, but it hits in others in really unique ways.
The poems are smooth and make such great use of blank space and sound; it whispers in large blank space, it screams in it too. I Am You is a collection worth checking out for sure. Ekhator’s playfulness and creativity make it a really unique product, and his content sharply discusses love, life, and social injustice.
Genre: Poetry / Black & African American Literature
Print Length: 130 pages
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