A deeply personal volume of poetry and prose from social worker and community organizer Barfield.
In this debut, Barfield sketches short pieces on love, loss and the passage of time. Some are intimate (entries with titles like “Rapture of Our Kiss” and “I Never Learned to Trust”), while others tackle broader subjects like the Black Power movement and ghetto life. The author uses a sweeping, abstract style that suits his subject. Though their language is sometimes clichéd, Barfield’s poems maintain strong rhythms and vivid images. The prose, however, works less well. Because the author so assiduously avoids specificity, his nonfiction pieces fall short of being truly memoir or essay. When, for example, the author gives varied perspectives on tumultuous relationships, the identity of the speaker is unclear. Without that context, it’s hard to see how these disparate pieces might cohere into a broader narrative or message. Similarly, when the author discusses societal ills like prejudice or the shallowness of political discourse, he does so only in the broadest of terms. For example, he asks: “Are we content to allow ourselves to be educated by sound bites while politicians whose only aim is their own self-interest continue to force-feed us lies and illusions?” But he doesn’t say more about what those lies and illusions are or why he views politicians as he does. His genuine conviction is evident, and the points Barfield makes may often be valid, but without much evidence or even anecdotes to back them up, the prose loses impact.
Passionate writing with a keen sense of rhythm and imagery, but this leaves the reader wishing for more substance.