REVIEW: CAN I KICK IT? – IDRIS GOODWIN (HAYMARKET BOOKS)

so much can be carved thin enough
To fit in a pocket/sold and spread across
Corners of a nation but everything belongs to the beat

from “Lil Nas X brings the country together”

Acclaimed poet and playwright Idris Goodwin returns with his second full-length poetry collection, Can I Kick It?, his first solo effort in the BreakBeat Poets series from Haymarket Books. As the title implies, Goodwin infuses music from the jump, opening the book with a reimagining of Marty McFly’s visit to 1965 in “Back to the Afro-Future, 1965.” This poem sets the tone for the entire collection, with the narrator describing how he cuts various records and looking toward a future in which hip-hop samples heavily from and reinvents genres like jazz and blues.

Goodwin is true to the BreakBeat tradition, a term he coined himself to describe a particular type of poetics infused with musicality and rhythm. The lines are sometimes swift, sometimes heavy, but there is always a discernible rhythm which propels the reader forward with deliberate, measured pace. In fact, it is nearly impossible to read through the poems without bobbing a bit, and the lines resonated most for me when spoken aloud. Goodwin trades on the rhythm in his poetry, lulling the reader into an honest and vulnerable look at contemporary society.

Between his attention to musicality and his frequent inclusion of pop culture, I found it hard not to compare Can I Kick It? to Hanif Abdurraqib’s work, and I believe that fans of Abdurraqib will feel at home in Goodwin’s poems. “Lil Nas X brings the country together,” for example, echoes Abdurraqib’s consideration of percussion in the essay, “On Breakups.” In fact, I took more away from Goodwin’s poem after having reread Abdurraqib’s essay, leaning into the reflections of the latter to inform the nuances of the poem.

This is a solid collection that will appeal to pop culture buffs and hip-hop fans alike. Get your copy from Haymarket Books.

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