Songs in Search of a Voice

Published By: Urban Echoes Entertainment, LLC

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Poetry

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Reviewed by Sara A. Baker

Marcus Harris's first collection of poetry, Songs in Search of a Voice, records the solos of a variety of characters, from burdened mothers to unrequited lovers. In the vein of Langston Hughes and Yusef Komunyakaa, Harris lets music guide his pen, creating what is ultimately a chorus of raw desire, tender agony, and fragile hope. Songs is a collection full of passion and Harris an author with the ability to see life through the eyes of people from all backgrounds.

Yet Harris's poetry lacks the improvised and meandering forms of jazz as well as the moody soul of blues. The pieces in this collection bear more resemblance to a tight, catchy pop song with straightforward structures, copious end rhyme, and approachable language.

Many of the poems about sex are almost embarrassingly trite. "To," for instance, seems to take itself too seriously despite its playful intentions: "to tickle/with cherries/ to tease/with strawberries." But through them all is an undercurrent of genuine longing and an appealing honesty. No doubt many of the speakers in Songs have a sensitivity that will endear Harris to certain readers.

Harris reveals his strength when he uses vernacular to create multi-dimensional characters and when he shrewdly comments on politics in the form of haiku. In "Woman to Player" and "Player to Woman," presented back to back, Harris fleshes out fully formed characters whose monologues shed light on each other's misconceptions. In the section called "(Re)vamp," he cleverly uses haiku to discuss the current state of the world--from imprisoned black men to the war in Iraq. Not all of the poems shine as much as "Elevator: 2000" ("Eyes dart quickly down/while wrinkled hands clutch her purse--/I stifle a sigh."), but they provide a thought-provoking respite from some of the sentimental love poems.

Overall, Songs in Search of a Voice clamors for live performance. The monologues beg to be read aloud, and the abundance of rhyme and alliteration would lend themselves more to spoken word. Then, it's likely that the voices of this diverse group could find their pitch.

Armchair Interviews says: Sights and sounds combine to give you lots to enjoy and think about.

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