“Take this moan as a historical rendering, / my downward-facing sigh,” Malcolm Tariq commands in the middle of Heed the Hollow, his debut poetry collection. But by this point in Tariq’s book, the reader has already been convinced to do so by his euphonious diction and seamless entwinement of the “black bottom,” a term he continually defines and interprets.
As Tariq makes clear, African American history is also an American, gay and human history. This collection explores an individual’s present as well as a broader history, repeating various gerund phrases, like “listening and listening and listening,” to eliminate the false dichotomy of past and present. The black bottom is not only a noun but also a verb; like gerunds, one can be a black bottom and do the action of black bottom, a continuous concept and action of submission and identity.
Heed the Hollow interrogates the linguistics of being, the verb and noun of what it means to be human, as well as to be history, to be present and sexualized and loved, to be full and hollow. Tariq is asking, gorgeously, a question, and allows anyone to answer.
Prince Bush is a poet based in Nashville, Tennessee. Read a selection of his poetry here.