Versatile and shape-shifting, Reed’s poems most often plumb the ways in which an individual offers itself to the world. His voice is at once uninhibited and hesitant, confident in its modes of expression yet bereft of self-belief. Like a searching flashlight, his poems expose the dark and often explicit corners of intimacy and betrayal: they can be crude, and also tender, and are frequently both. As with that long hand, Reed’s poems tick along, wound by an oppressive world, like something ready to explode—but often don’t. Instead, they nurse their bitterness into a muted, but highly pressurized, rage. The result is a masterful collection of layered tension ... For this white male reviewer, it’s eye-opening to grasp how deeply the black male (and all the more so queer) body confronts constant societal violence. Not only in the symbols left to our culture of the so-public deaths—Trayvon Martin’s hoodie, Eric Garner’s breath—but in the myriad ways that daily accumulated racism is carried in the body, its neurons and its cortisol and its heart disease. Many of Reed’s poems wrestle with these truths and work, against all odds, to find a resilience against the worst possible outcome ... Reed deploys line breaks for maximum advantage ... Reed’s work has the self-anticipating quality of the chords of bossa nova, but with much more serious subject matter. Such syncopation comes through in some of my favorite of his pieces, which are indulgences of lyricism, declaration, and fresh syntax and combinations.
I’m reminded of the ways Claudia Rankine, in Citizen, described not having it in her in the moment to challenge a colleague who’d said something racist, that she knew the same moment would come again no matter what she did right then, and how wearing that was on her ... Reed’s poems are full of this kind of movement and wordplay, and reward multiple readings ... Reed’s poems are also formally inventive, especially when he works in concrete ways on the page ... The reader winds up in a new place without realizing they were being moved there.
Reed’s visceral and teasingly cerebral debut probes black identity, sexuality, and violence and is inseparably personal and political ... Reed’s voice is engaging and vulnerable ... Abundantly brave, Reed’s debut finds language as 'a body behaving// as will any dialect, lifting stranger and more/ urgent mouths to the same sentence.'