She by Saul Williams

She by Saul Williams is a collection of interconnected musical poems coupled with a collection of images from Marcia Jones that tells a story about a woman and their journey together.  On his Website, he says, “This book chronicles my thoughts and feelings as a young man working through an early relationship with an amazing visual artist as we embark on adulthood and parenthood in the same breath.”

Each of Williams’ poems has a unique rhythm to it, and should be read aloud for effect.  Each is as expressive as you would expect Williams to be in real life, becoming an extension of himself and his digital, visual, and audio art.  Unlike other collections, Williams’ She is a story beginning to end with a prologue and epilogue and prose poetry.  The nameless She is integral to the journey, a connection to the past and the future, illustrated through short lines and “out loud” cadence that screams to be read aloud.

While readers could dip in and out of the collection and experience it in small chunks, it is best to read it cover to cover to grasp its full impact. Tackling issues of separatism, aging, and opposing desires, Williams pinpoints the harshest of realities and deals them a deft blow when he demonstrates the commonalities between us all. Because these poems do not have titles, the clear intent is to create a continuous narrative in which “calamity makes cousins of us all” (page 22) and “we live.” (page xi)

Nature imagery and personification can make the issues more vivid, “there is a gathering in the forest. the leaves have refused to change. they say that they are tired of things never remaining the same, of dying to be reborn, of winter’s dry withered hand.” (page 7) But lest the images become to heavy, there are moments of whimsy as well.

I have seen the truth
many times
but for the first time
she saw me

I wore suspenders
for the judgment
in my pants

(page 13)

As the relationship goes down hill, readers will not a dramatic change in the poems as the narrator struggles to let go for the sake of love. “I am a canvas/painted over/whether it be by your hand/or mine own.” (page 113) The images included in the book are unusual and appear to mix mediums, and often resemble pages from a scrapbook that a mother would keep of her children. In a way these pages resemble Williams’ play on words as he picks them apart and alters their definitions to explain the moment he is in.

Reading She alone in a room is not enough. It should be read aloud, shared with others, and most who pick up a copy will do just that. Seeing Saul Williams read it would make it even better, but its up to you to find out where he’s reading or performing next. There is not enough that can be said about this collection, except go read it!

Some reason Saul reminds me of Don Cheadle in this photo.

About the Poet:

Saul Williams is an American poet, writer, actor and musician known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip hop and for his leading role in the 1998 independent film Slam.

From Wikipedia about Williams and Marcia Jones’ relationship:

Williams and artist Marcia Jones began their relationship in 1995 as collaborative artists on the Brooklyn performance art and spoken word circuit. Their daughter, Saturn, was born in 1996. His collection of poems S/HE is a series of reflections on the demise of the relationship. Marcia Jones, a visual artist and art professor, created the cover artwork for The Seventh Octave, images through-out S/HE in response to Williams, and set designed his 2001 album Amethyst Rock Star.

This is my 24th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.



This is my 54th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.