Patience Kayira ‘20
Assistant Arts Editor
“Banned,” a book of poems written by an anonymous poet comments and analyzes the political conditions in the U.S. and the state of the world in the most graceful way possible. Anonymous, the poet, plays around with typefaces and concrete poetry to integrate visual artwork. To read “Banned” is a visually engaging experience that will leave you nodding your head in agreement and snapping your fingers.
A minimalist livret of 62 pages, the volume is brief. The cover features a clenched raised fist with “Banned” written above it in dark heavy ink. Inspired by pictures from recent protest rallies of people raising their fists, the poet wanted to evoke this symbol of “Resistance, freedom, and fighting against what is banned.”
The clenched fist also makes a gestures to historical and current social movements, like Black Lives Matter. An article from ABC news on the “History of the Clenched Fist” writes, “The gesture is often with defiance and oppressed groups.”
The fist carried on different meanings over time. ABC explains, “The Black Power Movement used it to symbolize the struggle for civil rights while The Black Panther Party used it to show resistance.”
For Anonymous, the minimal black and white fist communicates their message: “to fight for what you believe with conviction, power, and passion.”
The book itself is divided into four sections: Raised fists (synonymous with the cover art), “Burned paper,” “Heavy hearts” and “Broken chains.” A black and white sketch of an image accompanies each section page.
“Raised fists” features a cover-image of an erupting volcano. Beginning with “seeds,” this section explore themes of protest, change and race. In “seeds,” the poet explores with presentation as some words are torn apart or broken up.
Particularly in the first line of “the change,” these letters trail off in a curved shape. With the message of the poem communicating the need for activists. “The people who carve protest signs out of cardboard/ and promises are the ones who peel the skin of ignorance from its hold on paper.”
“Unused coffin nails” continues the integration of artwork. The poem appears as the shape of a mouth to communicate the injustice timid women face. Anonymous writes, “soft-spoken women rarely find luck in their favour.”
In “Burned Paper,” the poet discusses race with a poem entitled “justify.” The poem’s opening line addresses “tolerating different ideas” – a concept that is all too relevant for college students.
Anonymous writes, “how could you love a party that hates everything I am?/[...]I have to understand that you are a young, white/college-bound student with stock in industry/[…] you have to understand that I am a young, off-white/college-bound student who is putting stock in a country./”
Anonymous’s poetry does well in expressing the anger and frustration that comes from misunderstanding and warring perspectives without an off-putting intense fervor. The intensity is there, but it lies in the odd typeface, sketchbook-like illustration and juxtaposition of black and white.
With the references made to racism and social justice, it may be tempting to attach a racial identity to this Anonymous but one must refrain from doing so. On their biography, Anonymous writes, “Judge me by my ink, not my name.” This suspense and obscurity reminds us to focus on the poet’s message.
Anonymous has a website where readers can learn more about their poetry. To read more of Anonymous’s work, visit “bannedbyanonymous.com.”