[Book Review] Vulnerable AF // Tarriona “Tank” Ball*

The real-life story of a relationship in the author’s past told in verse and short prose pieces. Relatable and honest, with Tank’s signature mix of whimsy and realness, Vulnerable AF is about the difference between love and infatuation, the danger and confusion of losing yourself in the idea of someone else, and coming out on the other side of heartbreak with your sense of self-worth—and your sense of humor—stronger for it.

Vulnerable AF book cover

Tarriona “Tank” Ball is a slam poet and a Grammy-Nominated recording artist with her band “Tank and the Bangas.” I had never heard of Tank before reading her debut poetry collection, so, naturally, after finishing her collection, I looked into her music, and she’s an amazing singer! Check out this music video of her song, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” for an example of what I mean.

As a poet myself, I have always been fascinated by slam poets. They are so emotive and performative in such a genuine way, but because of that much of their work falls flat on paper since it’s missing that essential spark of delivery that comes with the live performance. Tank’s poetry, though, didn’t seem to have that problem. I looked up a video of her performing one of her poems, “What You Tell Yourself When You Think No-one’s Watching,” to see how the oral delivery of her poems compares to the written work, and she’s somehow managed to imbue the same level of emotion in her written work as she does in her oral performances.

Her debut collection, Vulnerable AF, is a roadmap of her past relationships, but it’s also a love letter to herself, a reminder of her own worth. It’s heartfelt and humorous, and yes, vulnerable AF. It’s a short collection but it packs a mighty punch. Many of the poems are accompanied by whimsical drawings too, such as the one below that appears alongside her poem “Spots That Are Hard to Get Out.”

Illustration accompanying one of Tank’s poems

Some of her poems are longer than two pages, some are only one sentence. Some are narrative prose pieces, some are told in verse. Interspersed between these are recurring poems called “Tank’s Story Time,” which are some of the most vulnerable poems in the collection. Nearly all of her poems, however, pack a punch. There were very few entries that I thought, “meh,” about or didn’t care for. Her writing style is in the same vein as rupi kaur and Courtney Peppernell, who are both incidentally published through Andrews McMeel Publishing as well. Traditionally, I’m not a fan of such poetry, as it feels surface-level and seems to cater to the masses, but Tank’s poetry was a nice elevation of this diary-entry-inspo type of poetry.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

PUBLICATION DEETS: Andrews McMeel Publishing, June 8, 2021, 112 pages

CATEGORY: poetry collection

*I received a temporary-access digital copy of this collection from Books Forward in exchange for an honest review.*

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