Many listeners are familiar with the rapper and celebrity icon Kanye West. He’s made headlines for eleven years not just with his music, but his antics and his romantic relationships. So a book of poetry dedicated to him isn’t conventional, but it is understandable. Local author Sarah Blake released a book of poetry simply named “Mr. West” in his honor. Blake calls it “an unauthorized lyric biography.” I consider myself a diehard fan of West and his music, so I was happy to dive into this book.
West believes he is many things. He compares himself to Andy Warhol, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Romeo of Romeo and Juliet and even God himself. He says he’s a genius, a legend and “the number one most impactful artist of our generation.”
For the book’s writer, all of these things hold true.
Blake tells the story of her devotion to West, and how it’s impacted her own life. In her poems, she asks what does her love of West mean for her as a fan? As a parent? As a person? She loves all parts of him and his life, including his wife, mother, daughter, gold teeth and plated chin.
The book’s chapters cover both Kanye’s and Blake’s lives throughout the years. The author also chronicles the ways her own life parallels his. Examples include the release of the Runaway film, the sudden death of his mother following surgery and how his character is dragged through the mud following the infamous “Taylor Swift incident.” Blake stands by him through all of these obstacles, and feels like they are her own challenges.
The book can best be described as an open love letter to West. Lyrics from his 11 years in music are sprinkled across the poems. Page after page, it’s clear the author’s devotion for Mr. West runs deeper than any simple fandom. Her infatuation soaks every page. Every stanza screams devotion to man she calls “the only rock star left.”
My favorite poem of the book is “Hybrid,” when the author compares West to a creature like a Minotaur or a merman. She says “he’s half an idea for my son, half an idol of diamonds and gold. Oh God, Kanye is half what makes my heart.”
As a rapper, producer, fashion designer and superstar with a colorful history, West is either loved or hated by most. For Blake, he is cherished. She dedicates the book to West himself, along with her husband, Noah. While this may not be the love story most people are looking for, members of the Kanye West fandom will be caught in its spell.
"Mr. West" is published by Wesleyan University Press. Author Sarah Blake is a local poet and former associate producer at WPSU-FM.
Reviewer Courtney Barrow is a Penn State student currently interning with ABC News in Washington.
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