I had high expectations for this special “all-black women’s issue” of PMS. Guest edited by renowned poet Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, this issue featured several mega-literary names like Lucille Clifton, Patricia Spears Jones, Nikki Giovanni, and Edwidge Danticat. As a white woman only vaguely immersed in black women’s writing, I was thrilled and eager to dive in, more than anxious to finally become edified in this wonderful and “sassy” universe.
This issue begins with a wonderful and informative interview between Remica L. Bingham and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natasha Trethewey. Trethewey discusses, among other things, her experiences with “The Dark Room Collective,” and her particular intrigue with photography. Following this interview, there is an overwhelming series of forty-six poems by thirty-four different poets; overwhelming in its multitude, but also in its levels of quality.
While some of the poems struck me as being outstanding, such as Elizabeth Alexander’s “Poised,” Patricia Spears Jones’s “Last Seen Wearing (Sylvia Plath),” and Nikki Giovanni’s “No Heaven,” many others seemed somewhat repetitive, somewhat generic, and somewhat less than grand in their scope. This may have had more to do with their placement, one after another in the text, but the standouts seemed to me to be few. Overall, I found myself slightly disappointed by the vast poetry selection in this issue.
On the other hand, the highlights of the Memoir section were definitely Edwidge Danticat’s humorous portrayal of her profane, meaning cussing “Uncle Moise,” and Trellie James Jeffers’s memories of her extraordinary childhood in “From the Old Slave Shack.” And, by far, the highlight of the Story section was Ada Udechukwu’s horribly haunting short story the “Empty Vessel.”
Despite being thematic in its approach, this issue covers an extraordinary range of writers and definitely deserves the compliment of being “sassy.”