Morgan Mbadugaha’s Over the Moon knows we are starving—are famished physiologically, spiritually and artistically.
The collection generously feeds our bodies, our hearts, our minds and our souls.
One of my favorite saints is St. Peter Claver who tended to Africans who had journeyed across the ocean to enslavement. He explained that he had to first tend to the physical ailments of a person before he could minister to them spiritually. I feel a similar consciousness and affection in these poems.
After encountering the title of the collection, Over the Moon, my initial speculation about the collection was “this will be about happiness” because of the expression “to be over the moon.” A feeling of joy is tied to the idiom, and after reading Kelechi’s “Foreword” the vehicle of bliss is obvious. However, the title became indicative of the not-so-joyous times and feelings. The struggle to stay joyful or in love is difficult. The title became symbolic of the journey of life–what can sometimes feel like a literal leap of faith over an obstacle into the abyss which I would consider delightfully disorienting.
The juxtaposition of verse and photography creates an anachronistic organization that also disorients and deepens the understanding of the text. The first poem “Abba” not only establishes a strong familial relationship but also a spiritual relationship. How can you not read “Abba” as a work out of the vein of 1 Corinthians? In short, you can. You can read the poem as the speaker’s relationship with her father. The repetition of the word love illustrates a desire to articulate love wholly and accurately, but without the allusion to the bible you miss out on the relationship to another, a husband. That bible verse is one of the most commonly recited at a wedding. As women, our fathers are our first loves. Our fathers teach us how our partners should treat us. The bridge between father and daughter and wife and husband is palpable and compelling.
This is a good time to clarify what I mean by disorients. Before astronauts go into space they train in zero gravity simulators to adjust to the environment. Over the Moon takes some adjusting because of its brilliant ambiguity that is dizzying. Going from “Light Years” which is accompanied by a picture of toddler Morgan and her mother to present-day Morgan in “Twenty-Seven” makes the reader question the progression of time. This is the beauty.
Knowing Morgan for about 6 or 7 years, I know how much her life has evolved. Following her from blog to blog, I’ve seen the beauty of her vulnerability. Sitting in a creative writing class together, I recognize her scholarly intelligence. The insights of her life can help color a poem but do not pigeonhole their trajectory of experience. I can read the “you” in “Baby Fat” as a lover, specifically as Kel, or as a common you, as me. She also addresses a collective “Us kind of women”. The subject matter is serious and yet the speaker of the poem, rightfully so, does not take herself too seriously. She is familiar and does not moralize which why I can’t read this collection as simply an autobiographical account, Morgan does not place a mirror in front of herself, instead there is transparency that looks outward.
This work is moving. I could write about the relationship between the titles and the first lines, “My charm is an heirloom”, the obsession on analogy, the resistance to pedagogy, Warsan Shire’s catapult in the mainstream after the release of “Lemonade”, but I would be writing for a while and I should stop working Beyoncé into all of my conversations. I am over the moon about this collection and how it transcends experience and communicates to with me in different ways.
To have a friend like Morgan is inspiring. To be yourself is important. But to influence and to be intimate is essential, but most importantly instrumental in growth. Go over the moon.
Read the full collection here.
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