Cover Image: Finna

Finna

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“when america writes”

about Black life
they prefer the past
                                             tense. (86)

These poems do not shy away from politics, violence and the role of the media in sensationalizing it, or police ignorance of black lives. Marshall slips between free verse and accepted canonical structures to show artistry does not have to be bound by accepted convention, much like living your life. 

Finna closes with a self-titled section. The opening poem suggests the notion that you can stay “woke” to all the violence and injustice in the world while still eating your favorite foods, celebrating with your favorite people, and living your best life. It also covers the legacy of slavery- its artifacts in museums, the dream of running North, redefining the black experience based on moments of white clarity, and reparations. The speaker gives voice to the struggle of trying to find our place in the world, trying to mold ourselves to what people say we are supposed to be and allowing our “...power be dulled by [our] fear of fitting.” (101) 

Marshall fittingly ends the collection with a single line, on a single page, “For my people, the ones I love & especially the ones I struggle to love” (104) which encapsulates the hardship, strength, faith, and hope the collection breathes out in every word, every line, every stanza.
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Nate Marshall is a writer of such wit and wisdom. These poems have a dance, a swagger, a confidence to them. This collection is highly recommended for library poetry collections.
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Poetry is one of the languages I've been recently trying to learn more of to become conversational in this language and Nate Marshall just takes it to another level. This is truly a collection that no one should miss.
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Nate Marshall's collection Finna is brilliant. It is a wonderful exploration of names (including his own and who shares it) and naming (who has the power to name themselves and others). Marshall's poems flow & twist & bend back again; "you know what i'm saying / whole time i'm bending the language / like a bow every arrow is spinning itself" (slave grammar). I was amazed by his word choices and line breaks, especially in poems like "fiddy'leven." I really enjoyed the love poems, both those romantic & platonic & familial. 5/5 stars
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I read the first poem in this collection, put it down, pre-ordered it from my local bookstore, and went right back into it. Nate Marshall’s poetry is wonderful to read, he covers so many topics and emotions and questions in his work, celebrates language, family, joy, friendship, Chicago, and evokes heritage, racism, oppression, and white supremacy. 

Definition of finna, created by the author: fin·na /ˈfinə/ contraction: (1) going to; intending to [rooted in African American Vernacular English] (2) eye dialect spelling of “fixing to” (3) Black possibility; Black futurity; Blackness as tomorrow

Finna celebrates Black vernacular, the verses lyrical and rhythmic, smart and intriguing. Nate Marshall conjures up images of his life, lessons learned, moments experienced, that tie in with general experiences, and the experiences and lives of those who came before us. There are moments that are hard to read, a punch in the gut, but also moments that are beautiful, a celebration of Black life, of Black joy. There are also moments where the poet asks important questions about masculinity and misogyny, and about violence (including the violence of words), and erasure. 

I recommend this wonderful collection of poems to everyone. Language is a spectacular living and evolving tool that is part of us all, and all words have meaning, all phrases important. No parts of our languages should be censored, erased, or made to be less important than others. Nate Marshall”s celebration of poetry, of living, of Black vernacular is just wonderful. A must read. I can’t wait to get a physical copy in my hands!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Full review coming in goodreads and Instagram. This book of poetry is so brilliant, I immediately ordered a physical copy and have it pinned to teach in African American literature. I want to get this book in the hands of all my students. Marshall dances around language, deepens a conversation about Black excellence, about boyhood and masculinity, about community and Black love.
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Finna is the kind of poetry book that you read once, think about for a few days, and then read again. Marshall's language use and structure is rhythmic but immediately makes clear who this collection is for - and the chances are that it isn't for you. 
"but fam, understand, if you treat the fam
like strangers, then you a stranger,
fam." - only 1 for whitefolk using Black language
Raw, vulnerable and timely (although this collection would always have been timely) Marshall will have you smiling and then leave you cold all in a few lines. But likely, more importantly than that, Finna makes space for including language, cadence and subject matter long excluded from literature more broadly and poetry specifically.
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fin-na /ˈfinə/ contraction: (1) going to; intending to. rooted in African American Vernacular English. (2) eye dialect spelling of "fixing to." (3) Black possibility; Black futurity; Blackness as tomorrow.

     Poetry is probably one of my least read genres. That is not to say I do not enjoy it, I do. However, I’m a bit picky when it comes to poetry. So, when I heard about “Finna” ( a word my mother would often correct me for saying when I was younger, because you know…it’s not a “real” word) , my interest was piqued.
    I was not prepared for this book. The poems arrived all at once but were thought provoking as well, their words finding me hours after I had finished reading. Although I gravitated towards some poems more than others, this collection of free verse poetry was poignant and truth telling. I even identified with some myself ( I couldn’t say “lie” growing up either). We travel through subjects. Childhood, adulthood, love, family, being Black. This book was honest, it was raw, it was real. I really connected with the words. In short, I enjoyed this book.
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I loved this collection so much. It's beautifully written and full of truth. Poetry and books in general like this are important. I'm so thankful I got to read a copy of this. It's not very long but it covers tons of topics. I wanted to highlight the entire thing. I read it so quickly everything just flows nicely and I'm starting to feel like I'm rambling. 

I think my two favorite pieces were "only 1 for whitefolk using Black language" and "what it is & will be". 

From the moment I read "landless acknowledgement" I knew I was going to apricate and love this. I can't wait to go read the rest of Nate Marshall's work now. I'm sad I haven't done it sooner.
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Finna expresses the struggles of Black America using familiar cultural vernacular and Hip Hop to bring readers into a world masked by white institutions and standards that are imposed upon these Americans. Nate Marshall's narrator speaks about the other Nate Marshalls of the world and how he is not like them, but that they are connected in the way that life's struggles can emotionally wear them down. What Marshall brings to life in this collection is that we are all human and empathy is something we need to relearn in order for us to connect.
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I wasn't familiar with Nate Marshall's work before getting an ARC from NetGalley, but I'd heard some buzz for Finna and decided to check it out.

I really appreciated this collection on blackness, on Chicago, on family, on names, and on language. There are some gorgeous turns of phrase and some really nice moments of circularity, like where the author explores his name and others sharing his same name, or where he explores the limitations that whiteness places on "acceptable" speech. Marshall also has several poems that follow a much more musical style and beg to be read aloud, like the work of Gwendolyn Brooks. As an example, here's the first stanza of an outstanding poem, "fiddy'leven":


how much is owed
to those who wore
the chains who tilled
the land who nursed
the babes who mixed
the grits who fried
the food who chopped
the wood who picked
the bolls who ran
the road who fought
the war who shared
the crop who made
the name who wore
the noose who Blacked
the codes who sparked
the schools who juked
the blues who showed
the soul who left
the south who stayed
the course who caught
the hell who marched
the march who broke
the strike who struck
the blow who took
the vote who held
the hood who housed
the club who queered
the notes who spun
the jams who funked
the flow who built
the thing who built
the thing who built
the thing? you know.


These poems aren't just static words on a page; they're living, asking you to mouth along. The meter has a percussive rhythm, and even in other poems, the rhymes or meter take a life of their own.


The poems where Marshall tackles language are the most engaging to me as a linguistics nerd (though, of course, the whole collection is lovely). It takes multiple forms:
- interrogating the intersection of masculinity and sex in "my homies ask if i'm tryna smash" ("our language for sex: / stain / smash / this is where we live / a land of impact & soiling / a gaggle of boys boasting / over hurt. our tongues / wagging, stupid flags / of a dumb dominion"),

- meditating on a favorite word in "scruples" ("O, small keeper of my failure / at the 4th grade spelling bee. / i loved the way my mouth / cupped your vowels / like a spoonful of newly cooled soup.")

- reclaiming slang as a valuable part of language and art in the titular "finna" ("my hope is like my language is / like my people: it's Black / & it's brown & it's alive / & it's laughing & it's growing & it's alive / & it's learning & it's alive & it's fighting & it's alive / & it's finna / take on this wide world / with a whole slang for possibility").
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Nate Marshall's poetic voice is truly a gift to us all.  He writes of the Black experience in America in such a profound way.  A timely piece, given all that is happening currently in our country.  Many thanks for an advanced read on this book!
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I loved these poems. I think these poems will resonate with a wide audience, given where we are at this point in the US with the call for dismantling of white supremacy hitting a boiling point. 

Nate Marshall writes about being a black man in America, oppression, and also hope, using AAVE.

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.
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tl; dr: PREORDER/READ/BUY THIS BOOK!!!

i know of nate marshall through his membership in the dark noise collective (Danez Smith, Franny Choi, Jamila Woods etc.) but had not gotten around to reading his work. I was thrilled to find the new collection, 'Finna,' on netgalley, it took me a few poems to get the vibe of this collection but once i found the groove, i was completely entranced. i can't remember the last time i read a collection that used Black vernacular in a non-ironic or performative way. it was sooo refreshing! i read a lot of poetry (30+ collections a year) so it's rare that i read work that feels so fresh. once i finished it, i felt that warm feeling that listening to Solange's 'A Seat at the Table' gave me on the first listen. this collection is for US!! i think there's a lot that will resonate with a non-Black audience, but it was truly comforting to see certain facets of the Black experience represented in these pages. thank you, Nate, for writing this. we needed this. especially now.

some favorites: FINNA, what it is & will be, Oregon Trail, Harold's Chicken Shack #2

***I was provided an advanced digital review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***
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An interesting articulation of the curves, shapes and textures of African-American Vernacular English. The first poems are stunning. The collection as a whole, however, is too technically written for my taste. The author simply recounts stories, for the most part, and these stories don’t always complement each other. I did like a few lines, though: 

“a few times each year i am convinced of the end of singleness, 
the beginning of a singularity, 
i become convinced of the infinite curve of love.”

With thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book.
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Thank you to Random House & NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy!

Available August 11 2020

WOW. WOW. WOW. Keeping a close eye to the incredible poetry renaissance in the Chicago and its surrounding areas has been a constant source of joy for me over the last few years & Nate Marshall is one of those incredible emerging poets. Starting with "landless acknowledgements:, Marshall unrepentantly lays claim to his life as a black man from Chicago. By turns heartbreaking & explosive, the poems run together like a pack of hood teenagers on a Friday night. There is tragedy yes, but there is also strength, a great faith in the power of the people.. Finna should be mandatory reading for every high school and college freshman in America RIGHT NOW.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this.

This collection of poetry was so enjoyable to read and I don't have the words to do it justice in a review. Marshall's words flow so naturally to me. Some poems spoke to me so strongly that I had to put the book down and give myself time to hold onto and think more about what I'd just read. This is an incredibly powerful collection that I think everyone should read, especially given recent events. Absolutely incredible. I can't wait to get a physical copy.
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This collection is impeccable. Nate M. has a poetic voice that is so assured and confident and loving...it is a celebration of blackness, which I NEVER get tired of, but I love the investigation of the unexplainable magic of black English, all of the built-in isms that non-black authors never get right no matter how hard they try, and that weave themselves into the fabric of conversation of every pedigree: colloquial, familial, professional, academic, & c. Phenomenal work!!!
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This collection of poetry from Nate Marshall is a poignant collection dealing with race and racism, masculinity and misogyny, violence and the violence of words. The first poem, addressing another Nate Marshall, a white supremacist from Colorado, is particularly powerful. While Marshall does not look away from the harsh reality, experiences and politics of race and gender, this collection is also a celebration of blackness and its vernacular. The poetry is powerful and lyrical (and I now can't wait to look up his performances) and the organization of the collection is similarly well-crafted.  A must-read poetry collection.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Random House One World for the advanced copy. All opinions my own.
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4.5/5 - ah! this is collection so special & refreshing. i've never read any of nate marshall's work so this was very new to me and i'm ready to read his other work ASAP. his poems exist at an intersection between rap/hip-hop & written verse that left me wanting nothing else but an audiobook. i really wanted to hear a recorded reading of all of these poems. they're so rhythmic and musical and gorgeous; i needed to hear them. there is something to be said about the way marshall breaks apart the already anti-ceremonial, un-graceful, transactional language of english. this collection is what happens when you drop a glass on the ground and the shards get caught by the sunlight coming from the kitchen window. right now, i'm only interested in this kind of play/work/framing of english - i'm only interested in the shards. i love poems that reconcile english's place place on the list of weaponry. this collection is timely, it's current, and it's fresh but it's also deeply personal,  historically bound. Finna is a living document that fits on to a timeline of english, blackness, the intersections between the two, appropriation. and what marshall does with breath - where words cannot convey, where metaphors cannot be used as hiding places, this is where the poems succeed the most. this collection is not raw - it is seasoned, cooked, fully marinated. Finna is no leaky wound - it is fully healed.

i'm thankful to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this collection, i can't wait to hold a physical copy in my hands!

(also A+++ on the cover art)
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