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Reviewed by Louise Hurrell for Readers' Favorite
The strength of Black Stoicism by Morris Junior is in its simplicity of structure. The majority of poems in the collection have no rhyme and are written in blank or free verse. This technique helps Black Stoicism to feel very intimate, almost confessional: Junior tackles deeply personal topics like substance abuse and mental health to societal issues like racism. And he does this with great aplomb. His word choice is incredibly blunt and the meaning behind each poem is clear – you can’t misunderstand his message. A great example of this is ‘White People In America’; an open letter to both God and white people (the USA is mentioned but I think many readers can make connections with racism in their own countries) which is made even more powerful by Junior’s strong, angry, and uncompromising language.
Yet despite the serious topics addressed, Black Stoicism seems ultimately a collection of hope. A lot of religious and natural imagery is used throughout and helps emphasize this idea and the belief in change, rebirth, and the betterment of society as a result. This is perhaps seen more clearly in the difference between the poems ‘Mother Flower’ and ‘Oxygen’, two of a handful where Junior experiments with structure and word choice. ‘Mother Flower’ implies a cycle, perhaps an unhealthy one, yet ‘Oxygen’ contains a flicker of hope through the wreckage. Hope is ultimately there for those who want to reach for it. I think Junior has crafted a remarkable collection in Black Stoicism. It is raw and honest in its feelings that Junior brilliantly conveys. He is not afraid to tackle big, hard-hitting topics yet the hopefulness that shines through ultimately makes Black Stoicism by Morris Junior an uplifting, thought-provoking read.