I have maybe 20-25 pages to go in Birthright and cannot finish George Abraham’s poetry collection. This has only happened once before, but that was because I was having a little trouble with the concepts of that other book. That poet had tossed out a lot of current events (just when they were starting to become hot/coming back into our consciousness) and there was a lot to absorb. This time it is for both similar and different reasons. This contradiction is throughout the book for me. While it is well written, and Abraham knows what they are talking about, it is an experiment in reading. Ideas are sometimes abstract but in the same breath, sometime solid. Of course, some subjects you do not have to wonder about the meaning, and others might be slightly more subtle. Sometimes there is a thought-map where you must jump around the page. Formatting of several poems is not traditional. Themes are repeated.
I am apt to bounce around in a poetry book to see how it is formatted, and this time was no exception. What I found was at the end of the book a comment from the poet saying that while the book was bound as a traditional book and you could read from front to back, it was not meant to be read that way. And a “map” of the poems is provided. After you have read the whole book. I am not sure how, like other Button Poetry poets, this could be spoken aloud. Most of their poets are Slam/spoke word poets. I admit, it would be interesting to hear the poet perform their work.
Overall, I am not the audience for this poetry collection. Who is the audience? I am not sure; but I can tell you it is not for someone who is new to poetry. It is not for people who are not fans of poetry. And most assuredly if you like things “happy ponies and pretty rainbow flowers” do not even think about picking it up.
Abraham is a non-binary, American-raised-Palestinian-background gay person. While their gender is a bit fluid, possibly even sexuality to a point, their thoughts on family, lovers, home, homeland, culture, birth, death and right and wrong is not. I did not always like what they said. I did not always agree with what they said. I did not always want to hear what was being said. But if Abrahams’ point was to make you think, then they did that. If they wanted you to be uncomfortable, they did that.