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Silencer by Marcus Wicker
Mariner Books, 2017, 73 pp.
Reviewed by DM O’Connor

If you have contemplated the connection between rap, hip hop, spoken word, and “academic poetry,” then Marcus Wicker’s latest collection, Silencer, should be placed on the top of your next-to-read list.

Silencer is a 41-poem sonic image-stream covering (or uncovering) the daily polemics faced when considering race, religion, career decisions, flowers, gossip, and above all, everlasting beauty. Wicker has a penchant for long titles, which ground and guide, but never lead directly to the suspected theme, such as:

Conjecture on the Stained-Glass Image of White Christ at Ebenezer Baptist Church

Confessional Booth with Lines from Heartbreak “Drizzy” Drake, Ending on a Theme from Oddisee

Silencer on The Arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. After Sassing an Officer Who Assumed He’d Unlawfully Entered His Own Home

Wicker is not afraid to shred pop culture. In “In Defense of Ballin’ on a Budget” he takes Will Smith to task. “Damn Will—they’ve got you sounding mighty/ Uncle Phil in these streets. Like the still calling/ the Ketel One cheap.” In “Taking Aim at a Macy’s Changing Room Mirror, I Blame Television,” Wicker speed-scrolls through all the brands and products that use racial constructs for marketing. “No juke/ move Nike Commercial, speeding bullet Skittles—hued/ Cross Trainers.” The poem concludes with a political stab:

See, I practise self target practise. There is no sight of me
in my wears. I, bedecked in No-Wrinkle Dockers Sensible
navy blazer. Barack Obama Tie, Double Consciousness-
knotted. Stock dandelion pinned to the skin of an American   
lapel with his head blown off.

Silencer is full of social critique, yet Wicker also targets his own weaknesses and calls attention to his own hypocrisy. The collection’s last third, “Cul-de-Sac Pastoral,” ridicules suburban materialism and the rite of passage so common to first-book academic poets who do time teaching in small Midwestern towns before the big name urban schools drop tenure fishing hooks. “Tiki Torch Cookout Vespers,” a hilarious seven couplets on the one-upmanship of barbecues is cringe-worthy with hyper-reality. “Dear Broil King 490 Master, found/ you in Consumer Report on my own.”

In “Prayer on The Subdivision,” Wicker parodies the flailing American dream:

    The I graduate to a four-digit mortgage inside an ornate gate. Me
    & two more mes: patent attorney & career soldier. A trinity of clean-
    ass SUVs parked beside matching beige tri-levels—proof we own
    at least 1/3 the Dream, though my Range is only leased. The tender
    kin who invented that adage about good fences must have been black.

Despite the wit and backhanded jabs at daily ridiculousness, Wicker underscores all his offerings with incantation and prayer. In “On Being Told Prayer is a Crutch,” he attacks technology. “We know/ too much, or want to./Not the Bible, but the i-/Phone tells us so.” “When academia tells me only a fool believes in a God that he can’t see” ends with the lines, “when the heart/of the matter    is the magic/is me.”

Wicker has faith and proffers answers. He ends many incantations with a call to love more, love better, love truer. Underneath all the fireworks and piercing observations, lies a deep commitment to making the world a better place, through poetry, through voice, and through self-study.

Honest, lyrical, brazen, and jammed with mind-blowing images, Marcus Wicker’s Silencer shows us how to transcend the political while simultaneously calling for change. By wittily juxtaposing the dual reality we face daily with a continual call to higher consciousness, this collection is a coping tool and spiritual defense mechanism to fight our unfathomable times in public and private.

Silencer is a transcendental album, a summons to resist, and prayer.

                Ol’ really wannabe-
            ass somebody. Go sit down
            somewhere & shed. Quit
            stalling, squawking
            like a sucker & open up.
            Come off it cousin.
            Think your favourite, famous
            so & so never feared what he
            couldn’t yet do?

                                          Ars Poetica Battle Rhyme for Really Wannabe Somebodies



DAVID MORGAN O'CONNOR is from a small Canadian village on Lake Huron. After many nomadic years, he's based in Albuquerque, where stories and poems progress daily. His writing has appeared in more than 50 print or online publications. He reviews, interviews and blogs monthly.