Mass Transit Muse is the first in a trilogy of novellas written in rhymed, narrative poetry that chronicle the narrator's return to post-Katrina New Orleans to demolish his shuttered childhood home. Readers meander through ‘the city that care forgot’ on buses, bikes, and on foot as the narrator peruses life, loss, and memory in response to encounters with everyday people who pepper the mundane 'dull and smudge of a poor city' with the quirk and pithy wisdom of its people.
Mass Transit Muse follows the narrator on a city bus ride as he keeps to himself, a fish-out-of-water in his hometown after a decade away. Uncomfortable with interacting with others directly, we ride along as the narrator has his imagination and reality merge to hint at the magic that is part of the fabric of New Orleans. He encounters a bus driver poet eager to share. A superstitious flirt of an older woman who the writer imagines would chide him for his lack of social grace. A transgender evangelist recruits for the Church of the Good and Only Good God. A teen rapper performs for a voluptuous grown woman that New Orleans men, with self-aware irony, call ‘a stallion’. A drunken sage stops someone from murdering a baby roach.
As narrative verse, Mass Transit Muse is timely and engaging in structure like 2014 National Book Award finalist Claudia Rankine’s narrative verse Citizen, while keeping the rhythmic, hip hop pace of the 2015 Newberry Award winning verse novel Crossover by Kwame Alexander, only with content accessible for adults. Imagine Junot Dias’ The Curious Life of Oscar Wao with its expansive historical perspective angled on an American city with international roots. Feel the rich sense of place present in Arundati Roy’s The God of Small Things colored with the complex cultural gradations of New Orleans. Think of the colloquial voice of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth seasoned by rhythmic verse to match the music of the quasi-Caribbean dialect of the bottom of the American South. This is Mass Transit Muse.