The relentless motions and blinding colors of lucha libre, the high-flying wrestling sport, are the arresting backdrop to Nandi Comer’s collection Tapping Out. Mexican freestyle wrestling becomes the poet’s lyrical motif, uncovering what is behind the intricate masks we wear in society and our search for place within our personal histories. Comer’s poetic narratives include explorations of violence, trauma, and identity. The exquisite complications of the black experience in settled and unsettled spaces propel her linear explorations, which challenge the idea of metaphor and cadence.
The harsh realities of being migrant and immigrant, being birthright and oppressed, are as hard-pressed as the plancha move to the body. Each poem in Tapping Out is a “freestyle movement” of language and complexity put on full display, under the bright lights and roars of survival. Comer’s splendid and barbed, Detroit style of language melts the masks with searing words.
“Look. I am honored to know that when I am entering the wrestling ring of the literary cannon and is Black, bold and beautiful, I am entering that space with the knowledge I can tag Mz. Nan from the D! The body of work that formulates into Tapping Out presents narrative, definition, images, and poetics with concern and skill from a hand of strong intent and even more palpable care. Her ability to place the reader alongside the voice of many of the moments rendered through phonics and sight is awe-spiring. Nandi Comer’s Tapping Out is a necessary and exquisite work which gets to the business of unmasking beasts so that we can discover us to be heroes who ought to be valued and, more importantly, heard. Get it, Nandi. Get it!” —avery r. young, author of neckbone: visual verses
“The strength of this collection can be found in the poems in which Comer moves beyond being a spectator outside a ring; when she ‘unmasks’ her personal self the work embraces a hidden glitter . . . Reading Comer’s poetry one is forced to ponder if at times language might be viewed as a mask. What is the writer hiding from the reader? When is the mask camouflage or veil?” —E. Ethelbert Miller, author of If God Invented Baseball
“While Tapping Out is a fan’s intimate meditation on the many nuances of Lucha Libre, it is also a book about belonging. A book about what it means or takes to belong—to a culture, to a family, to a city—and also about what it takes from us to belong. There are few books I’ve read that have the same kind of difficult ardor, the same kind of honest, entangled love for a place, a home, as Tapping Out does. Nandi Comer’s book is an artifact of that love. It is heavy with it. It is florid with it. We are lucky to be in the midst of such love.” —Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights