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When Divas Laugh: The Diva Squad Poetry Collective. (poetry reviews).

When Divas Laugh: The Diva Squad Poetry Collective edited by Chezia Thompson Cager Inprint Editions, $16.95, 2001 ISBN 1-580-73031-0

There is a balance between the local and the universal, which makes the anthology When Divas Laugh enjoyable. At its best the poems in the collection stretch out into the wide open skies of the diaspora or balance themselves on the particulars of a Baltimore experience. As articulations of the one percent they make declarations, or as observers they recall the lessons of fishing trips or the lasting image of dancing women. They are full of affirmations on sisterhood, gentle musings on poinsettias, love, erotica and fire and brimstone rained down upon those who disrespect women. When Divas Laugh gives us a flail view into many of the ranges of human experience.

When Divas Laugh is a published manifestation of the Diva Squad Poetry Collective, which consists of four women poets: Lenett Nefertiti Allen, Linda Joy Burke, Jaki-Terry and the editor Chezia Thompson Cager. Based In Baltimore, it is important to note Black Classic Press as one of the preservers of African American literature, prints the book.

Variety of voice, context, mood and image are the collection's greatest attribute. In "Grateful for Shelter: Leaving Otterbein" a black crippled man is dwarfed by Baltimore's Camden Yard. In "1994 (Reflections on my 38th Year)," Jaki-Terri describes Jah as the one who "paints the sunrise in my favorite shade of pink."

It is the concrete thread of black culture that welds the book together with numerous references to black musical heroes, to the Orishas, grandmothers and the many characters and players in a Culture that sustains us. Perhaps the best example of the range of poems is "Creole Love Song." Borrowing from the blues form, the piece invokes the familiar musical repetition with a twist, a simple natural imagery,
 the earth is like us/
 black and sweet

and as an added treat-a Creole and French translation.

Though the poetry at times can be more like speech than the music it should be, the project is powerful for the examples it gives. These poets got together and published their voices. All over the country there are similar collectives. We could use their books too.

Bro. Yao (Hoke S. Glover III)is a graduate of the University of Maryland M.F.A program and a published poet.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Glover, Hoke S., III
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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