Laura Yes Yes is a lot of things. She’s a world-ranked slam poet, she’s a Callaloo and Cave Canem fellow and most recently an author. Her collection of poems How to Seduce a White Boy in Ten Easy Steps takes on the topics that often remain the 500-pound gorillas of the American cultural landscape. In her book, Laura Yes Yes gives shape and sound to the subject of racial tokenism, sexual objectification and elephants—not necessarily in that particular order.
When thoughtfully reflected upon, HtSaWBiTES centers much on a biracial women’s perspective on the subjects of love and sex, life and death, race and politics in a way that is neither socially proper nor even-handed. Her poems are vivid and numerous in the variety of poetic styles being applied to her craft reaching wide enough to tantalize literature scholars and get a head bop from hip-hop followers with her hints of urban music cadence subtly pontificated—often times the way an especially artful rapper might deliver.
Other times, Yes Yes’s poems are more the experience-rooted prose grasping at something ultimately in the area of inner city fallout like the piece “Chamber Music,” a poem detailing the darker side of urban life in list form.
“The first time:
I heard gunshots I lived in Oakland with the naturalist who taught me to identify birds by their voices.
Popcorn, pop, paper bags, pop pop, firecrackers, pop.
The first time:
I was robbed at gunpoint, I cracked jokes. I said, I’m broke, I’m a poet, but we listened carefully to instructions and apology as a boy pressed his weapon to my friend’s temple while two others searched our bodies.”
Yes Yes likens herself to that of a hydra in the sense that she is a being of many different faculties. This quality, at times, acts with a disorienting effect on the reader causing them to blindly guess at the author’s vantage point. Ultimately, I think Yes Yes is at her best when she uses her wile to speak on the tougher subjects of race and gender. It is during these moments we are able to more clearly see her clandestine walk along an accurately outlined and Sharpie-scribed philosophy. HtSaWBiTES is definitely a monster, but a very provocative one to say least.
How to Seduce a White Boy in Ten Easy Steps can be found for purchase at Write Bloody Publishing. Laura Yes Yes is the founder and co-curator of the monthly Chicago-based variety show Real Talk Avenue.