The Geez by Nii Ayikwei Parkes
PBS Recommendation Winter 2020
Concerned with the phase of life sometimes referred to as the midlife crisis, The Geez navigates the blurred lines between age and youth; the real and the imagined; what is seen and what is -- what catches the gaze and what lies beneath. Conceived in four sections, the collection moves from play, to love, to gossip and - finally - to explorations of the intersections of self and contemporary culture, including a segment inspired by blues legends, riffing on the myth of the crossroads, as well as an eleven-part love letter to the African diaspora -- specifically African-Americans, whose sacrifices have contributed to the still-suppressed freedoms of Black folk globally. A number of the poems in The Geez are written in a form called the Gimbal, which was developed by Nii -- initially to work through his enduring grief at the loss of his father. It is now a form that has evolved to mine emotion within a guiding format that, for him, evokes the workings of a gyroscope -- spinning but stable -- a state that echoes the liminality that anchors this collection.
“The Geez is a core-shifting collection. Each section is an electric shock to the senses. Nii is writer of precision, of ritualistic delicacy, his words are a symphony and every note in this masterpiece is a masterpiece in itself. How lucky is the reader to be taken on a journey through the self, where they are shown the real in the imagined and the imagined in the real. Each poem is a shovelling through the soil of one’s perception, the richness, the grit, the depth. This brilliant collection is the sum of breathing, of loving, loathing, thinking, believing, grieving, thirsting, reaching and reaching.” Caleb Femi
“The questing and questioning poems of Nii Ayikwei Parkes’ The Geez range across time and continents, synthesising the broad and resistant histories of the global black community, with intimate questions about love, family, parenthood and grief. Formally inventive, the collection sings with its own music and with a consciousness of the transformative power of black music in the diaspora. It is rare to find a book so fiercely political and emotionally intimate. A compelling and captivating collection.” Hannah Lowe
“It's gorgeous and wise at the same time. The lumped, pressing aches of separation are addressed with immaculate subtlety that braids wit and grievance so finely, and yet evocatively with perfect poise. I love how the joy of parenthood, the love of music, the rich memories of loving parents and the eroticism come together with integrity and seamlessness--by that I mean I trust the voice, its thinking heart and its feeling mind. A beautiful, beautiful book.” Khaled Mattawa