Danae Younge’s debut chapbook, Melanin Sun (-) Blind Spots grapples with the loss of her father, missing history, and identity as multiracial queer woman in a cis-white-heteropatriarchy. Younge’s chapbook is composed of ten poems that orbit the persistent requirement of identification in spaces that I, as white woman, have been able to move fluidly through. This is the kind of literature that demands its readers confront their privilege and insists to black and brown women that they belong in the spaces they have historically been pushed out of.
Younge experiments with form and language, constructing a text that challenges its reader to interact with it. Her use of redaction is a form of protest in its refusal to satiate the requirement for answers. In her poem, “Just a brown Girls Black Box,” Younge writes, “I find myself coming out / as biracial (Black/white) / more often than coming out as xxxxxx.” This redaction requires the reader to exert a fraction of the labor that has so often been demanded of Younge. Redaction poetry can be a difficult style to execute as thoughtfully and thoroughly as Younge has. With each redaction, she insists that the reader acknowledges the white- and even the negative- space. These moments void of language are often when Younge speaks the loudest:
It’s letters like x and words like xxxxx
and silent languages I speak:
simply because I am his daughter,
In this excerpt from “Reverberation/Redaction,” Younge ruminates on her identity in conjunction with her father, a primary theme across the collection. In this poem, she likens her existence to “Mad Libs. / 12 years of his Black ink.” Younge’s father is integral to her identity and the loss she has suffered since his passing creates a dynamic exploration of the self. The tone of Melanin Sun (-) Blind Spots is conversational, immersing the reader into Younge’s family, and the natural world as she navigates her grief, identity, and convoluted history.
Younge leans on metaphors of organic material, the natural world, and its elements to allow the reader a tangible understanding of identity, generational trauma, and the grief that she explores in this chapbook. These metaphors are as thin and delicate as a “silhouette fluttering like dark chiffon.” The ephemerality of the metaphors she has chosen often insists on the fragility of the moments that they describe. In her poem “Nectar|Names,” the very fruit becomes a metaphor for the speaker:
I hold the spiral peel of his name
you’d find on the census,
the melanin you’d have if you skinned me.
I admit I can’t remember which hands first sliced open
I just know they gave me the half
with the pit still intact.
The use of metaphor is a gesture to topics otherwise incommunicable, such as the generational and historical trauma Younge experiences as a biracial woman. In “Some Things Aren’t Meant to be Metaphors,” Younge uncovers that generational trauma and her history that is often “blurred into the echo chamber,” censored and even erased. The wind becomes alive like “the invisible hound dogs that” were used to hunt the enslaved.
Younge enunciates erasure through her use of redaction, and although much of redaction is the lack of language, the blacking out of words and sometimes phrases, Younge also strikes out lines adding further dimension to her poems:
Tender hearts like soft mollusks caught, heavy in some old white man’s net behind a reed-woven tugboat, like love—no stop, STOP
doing that. Epic similes are the same deal; “like” carves a
crawl space, but there’s not enough room to hide unless
you make a home in the shadows…
The use of strikethrough is performative, as if the speaker is taking back their answer and giving it again, less sugarcoated. To simply redact would be to lose the level of vulnerability and truthfulness that Younge has provided her reader with.
This is a collection that refuses to fill in the blanks while simultaneously dismembering the metaphors and similes so often demanded of black and brown writers in their workshops, classrooms, and daily lives. It is a proclamation, protest, and love letter all at once. Melanin Sun (-) Blind Spots is a collection saturated and poignant with emotional intensity. Danae Younge is a brilliant and experimental poet, and this collection is everything we need in the wake of the current and continuous political sphere.
DANAE YOUNGE is a four-time award-winning poet and an editor for Kalopsia Literary Journal. At twenty years old, Danae’s work has been internationally recognized by Zone 3 Press, Salamander Magazine, Petrichor, and over forty other publications as well as five worldwide print anthologies. She was a winner of National Poetry Quarterly’s annual contest in 2020 & placed in the international It’s All Write competition. Her flash fiction piece, “Skeletons Don’t,” was longlisted in Grindstone Literary’s international competition for all ages. Melanin Sun (–) Blind Spots is her debut collection and she is currently working on her second chapbook. Get updates and read more of her work at danaeyounge.com.
MICHAELA ZELIE is originally from a small rural town in western Maine. She received her BFA in creative writing from the University of Maine at Farmington and is currently a third-year MFA candidate in Poetry at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She is a poet, an essayist, and a visual artist and much of her written work focuses largely on religion, the body, sexuality, and gender. Michaela is interested in genre blurring, visual poetics and wearable or interactive art.