Joshua Bennett is a very intelligent and witty poet. His observations and metaphors are arresting and spot on. His perspective and the subject of many of these poems make him extremely relevant. I recognize the intelligence of these poems.
But these are the kind of poems that make you say, “Hmmmm.” These are poems that send you to Google to conduct research that somehow spirals out of control. These are not bad things, but I personally prefer poems that make me look inside myself, poems that make me ask the deeper questions than any search engine can provide answers to.
Once or twice I was moved while reading The Sobbing School, but mostly I thought, “nice play on words/ideas/etc.” My reaction reminds me of my views on hip-hop, which is relevant as several of the poems in this collection deal with hip-hop culture. I've heard it said that some of the greatest lyricist in hip-hop are those that have the cleverest and most inventive lyrics. MF Doom is one rapper that is often mentioned as one of the greats. Doom is clever, but he has nothing to say. His style is cartoonish and follows no logic. Now, I'm not trying to draw a direct parallel between Bennett and MF Doom, because, frankly, Bennett is clearly reaching for a space in between, where wit and relevance meet. Unfortunately, my mind was so tied up with the logic that I was not in the page emotionally. For better or worse, feeling is what I am looking for in hip-hop and in poetry.
Favorite poem in this collection: “Anthropophobia.” That's one I felt.