“Like you, I was born underwater.
(I lied: there was never a stone.)
Like you, I was born but that’s not the half of it:
I lived. Lord, I lived.”
-from Epitaph at the Foot of the Stone
Let’s talk about Rickey Laurentiis aka Rickey ‘Ballin On These Stanzas’ Laurentiis aka Rickey ‘Show You How Much My Words Worth’ Laurentiis aka Rickey ‘Sashay, I’m Paid’ Laurentiis for a second. If you didn’t catch on, Rickey gets the money. In 2012, he was awarded a Ruth Lilly Fellowship & a NEA grant, and here is why. Rickey’s work comes you humbly but with fist. There are emotions and dramatic turns hidden in plain view, but their surprise is just as grand as if they came from out of nowhere. In Rickey, we see the hands of Lucille Clifton, Robert Hayden, and Toi Derricote working their way through his work, guiding this young voice and catapulting to a level of mastery on the page that makes me quiver at the idea that homie is under 25. Rickey’s words soften you, breaks you to dust, then give you your humanity back to you one bit at a time. Rickey’s work is a celebration of survival, of lust, of the holy and the not whole; it’s a testimony as much as it is a test. Rickey can call all the gods down from the hills in the same breathe that he can question the light within himself and in all of us. This man is a lightning to be reckoned with. I sit in awe of the genuine power and grace that shapes his work into the pillar of joy that it is in my life, his ability to demand the human in all of us to stand in attention and be accountable. I am HERE for Rickey Laurentiis. He is a poet we will be seeing for years to come, someone we will continue to learn from. Rickey, Shante, you stay. Reader, Sashay away to the Internet and get into Mr. Laurentiis.