You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love by Yona Harvey
Four Way Books, 2020
88 pgs, $ 16.95
review by Alayna Powell
You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love by Yona Harvey begins with a strong image of her childhood-self holed up in a hot attic, dreaming of Larry Blackmon and Chaka Khan. She states “if the colors could sweat & strip / me down to my slip, well, / I wanted that, too. Nobody knew / what I was thinking up there.” This image alone convinced me that a visual art form would be necessary to fully capture the depth of Harvey’s poems, as she takes the reader on a journey through space and time, exploring the meaning of freedom in life, relationships, and on the physical page.
There were several advantages to using Pinterest as a medium to review Harvey’s book. Most importantly, the “pins” or images on the platform are linked to outside sources, often providing information on the subject being searched. For example, readers of this “review” will have the ability to click the connected links and learn more about Glenn Ligon’s artwork and Ella baker’s contributions to the civil rights movements, which will hopefully deepen their understanding of what Harvey has written. I was also able to add videos and links to songs on YouTube, which works to strengthen the connections and heavy use of references in this collection. One specific poem that took on a new meaning for me was “Hush Harbor” because I was able to search and view every individual flower/plant listed by Harvey. The beauty and life presented with these images creates a strong sense of juxtaposition within the poem that I would have otherwise missed. Furthermore, I think viewing the Pinterest page as a whole shows the wide-range of topics, times, and places that are discussed and voyaged by Harvey.
Using Pinterest had a few disadvantages as well. I quickly realized anything I searched on the platform would produce very literal results, which was difficult to maneuver considering the strong aspects of imagination and expansion present in Harvey’s book. For instance, I tried to search the image of “black on white canvas” from “Segregation Continuum” and found hundreds of pictures of abstract black and white art, which didn’t do much to extend the visual originally presented by Harvey. This became more difficult as the book went on, because Harvey discusses increasingly abstract topics, especially within the “District” poems. Specifically, “The Dream District / Origin”, “Dark and Lovely After Takeoff (A Future)”, and “The River Wanderer” were extremely difficult to convey through this platform. This aspect also made it challenging to discuss the mixture of literary forms utilized by Harvey, which played a major role in this collection of poetry.
Despite these disadvantages, I was able to express prominent themes and images of freedom and imagination that were present in this collection. I believe this approach has potential to reach wider audiences than a traditional book review. Anyone who uses Pinterest could stumble across this review and be tempted to read Harvey’s book, especially younger audiences who are less likely to read conventional reviews. Another benefit of using Pinterest for a review is the inclusion of visual content, which can enhance aspects of poetry in different ways than text. This is especially useful for a collection like You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love, which draws on the readers’ senses and imagination in order to fully communicate the message that “to be willing. Is more than enough.”
Alayna Powell is a poetry student at the University of Pittsburgh who writes about fruit, the body, and emotional turmoil. Her work is featured in Rogue Agent Journal and Zocalo Public Square.