Mary Wants to be a Superwoman, by Erica Lewis
Third Man Books9780996401616
The notes are letters, the sounds are words, the rhythm in the breaks, the book is playing music on the page, it’s right next to our turntable, Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder shaking the room. Wonder plays a part in every poem, but he sits in the background, providing the groove with his keys, the lead is taken by lewis’s mother, mary, and lewis’ family, her friends, fellow poets, the world around her, all the struggles and triumphs, all in the key of life.
Being of black, Native American, and white descent, poet erica lewis’ mary wants to be a superwoman recounts her family’s history, their voices within that history — especially the women on her mother’s side — and her friends’ complex history with race, gender, and class in America, what it means to live with your own history, dealing with a history that has been passed down, and how to move on from that history and its implications.
It is lewis’ take on revising the confessional while taking inspiration from her family’s own oral history. Each poem is also framed by phrases from the lyrics of Stevie Wonder’s Motown records, but the poems are not “about” the actual songs, but what is triggered when listening to or thinking about the music. What happens when you take something like a pop song and turn it in on itself, give it a different frame of reference, juxtapose the work against itself, against other pop music, and bring it into the present. mary wants to be a superwoman is the second book of the box-set trilogy; daryl hall is my boyfriend (Barrelhouse, 2015) is the first.