“Our Name Be Witness”, poetry collection by Marvin K. White

I picked up “Our Name Be Witness”, by Marvin K. White, at a “Small Business Saturday” booth at the DC Center for the LGBT Community, on that day (Nov. 25), and got to talk to the owner of the small press,  Lisa Moore.

This book is not self-published, but it is offered by a small press that offers specific sub-genres.  I doubt mine would fit because I’m more on the conservative-libertarian-individualistic (perhaps Log Cabin) side of the LGBT area, and I pay attention to global issues a lot (like North Korea right now).  But I had an interesting conversation with her on how she works with independent bookstores, which are in almost every smaller city or college town (not to mention the antique shops and used book stores, and the kind that have store cats to greet customers).  A small press has to be run as a business, and that takes a lot of time away from developing content.

The book is a set of free-form prose-poems.  Each poem is untitled and one paragraph long, with some spanning two or three pages, others just two lines.  Each poem starts on a new page.  There is no TOC, but it looks like there are about 80 poems.

I recall when I was staying at the Westin on the Fort Lauderdale Beach two weekends ago (sorry, folks, I have not been invited to Mar a Lago)  that there was a hypermodern lobby with antique bookcases containing some textbooks, one of them an earlier edition of “British Poetry and Prose” as I had read in the early 1960s as an undergraduate at GWU.  Oh, I remember those pop card quizzes, and the concern about being able to identify quotes on a final exam. A typical homework assignment for the next class would be to read about 40 pages of poetry. We had to get used to Old English and to the idea that not all poems rhyme, and that some (as in this book) don’t have identifiable verses.  Then we were amazed that creative writing could be done within the discipline of iambic pentameter. And that some authors (Thomas Carlyle) indeed experimented with a “new kind of book” (“Sartor Resartus”).  So did I, with my own DADT-III book, with non-fiction and then fiction sections, a kind of “meta-book”.  So maybe I can call White’s effort “meta-poems”.

The poems do reflect a stream of consciousness, rather like the marginal alternate reality of dreams.  Sometimes there is alliteration, onomatopoeia, and clever use of homonyms. A couple of the strophes that I live the most appear on p. 70, when he talks about naming names (Randy Shilts knew what that meant in the military a few decades ago – the anti-gay witchhunts), or p. 136 that equates a prime number with solidarity. P. 14 talks about shame (its masculine counterpart in the Rosenfels world is “guilt”) and p. 15 talks about cooking and fixing your own stuff, like you were a doomsday prepper (“The Survival Mom”).

Author: Marvin K. White
Title, Subtitle: Our Name Be Witness
publication date 2011
ISBN 978-09786251-5-3
Publication: Washington DC, RedBone Press, 140 pages, paper (authors)
Link: author, Lambda Literary

(Posted: Thursday, November 30, 2017 at 3 PM EST)