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Plato's Closet DETROIT DETROIT
by Anna Vitale

Before the financial collapse thrust Detroit into the limelight, there were kids in the city making up dance routines, listening to the radio, and navigating the rugged terrain of racism, poverty, and sexism. Detroit Detroit is Anna Vitale’s timely debut about the city that raised her, a city that is impossible to sum up and hard not to love.

Vitale’s Detroit belongs as much to today as to the author’s childhood. Taking aim at the Detroit-based luxury brand Shinola, she writes, “I ride my bicycle I don’t know shit from Shinola/ I don’t know shit from Shinola.” She also embraces the joys and pain of ’90s hip-hop, from the album Boomin’ Words from Hell by Esham to Tupac Shakur, Thuggish Ruggish Bone, and the Geto Boys.

Vitale’s attachments to her childhood friends connect reflections on politics, identity, and the psyche. “My best friend Sandy had a gang name. I don’t remember what it was, but let’s say it was Angel. She would say ‘Angel Love’ as a way to represent herself. I would say ‘Peaches Love’ as a way to represent myself.”

Detroit Detroit rages against the neglect of marginalized communities. Consisting of breathless accounts of labyrinthine dreams, song lyrics, music criticism, texts written for performance, and an index of everything the author could remember about Detroit in one sitting, Detroit Detroit asks but does not answer: “Who knows / That best / Who knows / That suffering?”

People are Saying:

Anna Vitale’s Detroit Detroit is a radical rethinking of race, gender and sexuality. The urgent and infectious voices that speak these poems range from that of the emcee’s call and response, to the hesitating and intimate tenor of a lover’s phone call. Vitale challenges us to not just listen to, or orient ourselves towards blackness in an era marked by Black Lives Matter, but indeed to white out whiteness itself. In attempting to do so Vitale destabilizes each mode of self-identification that the reader grasps towards, from the first person pronoun to the proper name.
Sreshta Rit Premnath

Detroit Detroit is a poet’s psyche held in the mirrored city of memoir, of childhood and adolescence inflected by and inflicted with a multi-dimensional experience of race and the givens of “what we see in our mind and what we feel in our body and how scary that confusion can be.” And as significantly, it is a thought piece on the longing to belong, when one remains ever close to yet separate from belonging. As mediated as Vitale’s words are through the rap and popular music that serve as both guide and interpreter of the incoherence of raced experience, this is a searingly personal work. It insists on the particularity of experience invoked in dream, wish, confession, statement, lyric and anti-lyric—and through which music weaves its blurry truths.
Carla Harryman

Anna Vitale’s Detroit Detroit belongs to the long tradition of poets making long songs to the cities they love. But it’s not just any place. It’s at least two, Detroit and Detroit. Vitale’s poems mirror the plurality that city signifies: the ruins of capitalist production, abandoned grandeur and the social real USAmerica. Made from the songs on the radio, urgent exclamations of outrage and grief, the dreamy syntax of memory and the weird grammar of dreams, this astonishing debut is for everyone who suffers the sounds of contemporary life. You know, that long wail which sometimes swells into a dance party. It is really a book for all of us, which is the highest praise I can give.
Brandon Brown

Anna Vitale is a writer and performer interested in poetry, psychoanalysis, music, and improvisation. Her work has appeared in places like The Brooklyn Rail, Entropy, Gauss PDF, Jacket2, and P-Queue. Her chapbooks include Anna Vitale’s Pop Poems (OMG!, 2010) and Unknown Pleasures (Perfect Lovers, 2013). She earned an MFA from Bard and is a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Brooklyn.

108 pages
ISBN: 978-1-931824-69-9
Publication date: April 2017

$16.95

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