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Book Review – The Collection Plate


Poetry is a powerful reflection. In Kendra Allen’s poetry collection, The Collection Plate, the poems articulate the overlapping experiences of Black girlhood including sex, presence, body, and hair, the latter which has sparked Black women to have personal resistance and care, particularly through natural hairstyles and passing The Crown Act. The title refers to the plate that is passed around to collect tithes and offerings after the church sermon. It is a moment to reflect on the sermon and honor God through the work the church does. Simply, the collection plate has a purpose. 

Collection Plate in action, courtesy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

About the Book

The church was a sanctuary for the themes in the novel. Many of the poems read as a sacred force, like watching them being performed from the pew. I imagine the church has two people. Maybe one other person in the back. The first two poems, “Evening Service” and “Look At The Material after Tiffany Pollard” create intimacy and mystery. Water, which is used in baptisms, is an element in Allen’s storytelling. It is a renewal.

Structure is a striking ground for how to read and thus receive the poems. In “The Super Sadness! feels like anger which feels like,” there are a plethora of spaces that makes navigating Lombard Street easier. It is one poem that also gives you the time to focus, stay with the words longer. “Our Father’s house” is a title that has a series of five poems. The title relates to the other name for church, a gathering place. However, it also relates to a father in his lack of presence and the longing for him. Details linger in some corners of the pages. 

While the poems lean on the longing for Black women to be heard, there are poems that do not project through the bullhorn. A few of the poems ended abruptly, which I also understand is a part of Allen’s writing craft. The titles also read with some emptiness. It is a lofty goal to articulate the experiences of Black girls and women. It is not for one author, in this case, a poet, to write about the breath. The intersections of experiences are interesting points. 

While we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the cover of “The Collection Plate” is stunning and is definitely worth mentioning.

Ashley Paul is a hopeless wanderer, baker, runner, and photographer. She is passionate about supporting high school juniors and seniors to write compelling stories for their post-secondary careers. Her favorite genres are young adult, literary fiction, and memoir.

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