Lang’s (The Cafe of Dreams, 2018 etc.) latest collection of poetry is a cri de coeur on the injustices of contemporary life.
The author, who holds the position of poet laureate of Vallejo, California, offers 70 new poems here—the majority of which were written, she says, as a “reflection of the times we live in” and her own “political evolution.” The collection opens with “What’s on Her Mind?” which declares boldly, “For every woman allowed to grace / the pages of man’s history books / there are millions more / achieving miracles that are overlooked.” It’s protest-march poetry that delivers a thumping message and sets the tone for the remainder of the book: “This is the era of every woman / must raise up her voice! // Every woman must have free choice!” This message is echoed in “A Blessing for the Women Who Pray With Their Feet,” an invocation written for the 2019 Vallejo Women’s March. It was written as a call-and-response prayer, and Lang’s bold, erudite language will empower and uplift readers: “Until all women are safe from violence, so that a woman can exist in any space without fear, we march!” Such pieces leap off the page and demand to be read aloud to release their crackling energy. Others deliver an equally powerful message in their sparsity; for example, “Fatigue” reads simply: “I’m so tired of / writing about / mass shootings.” A number of other poems address the horror of gun violence in America and New Zealand. “Never Known” delivers a valiant message of hope and determination for change: “the day our voices go silent / must be the day that this terror has ceased.” However, Lang’s poetry isn’t only about protest. Haikus, such as “Moonlight Song,” chime with the beauty and clarity of Tibetan tingsha: “A moonlight chorus / serenades until sunrise. / Wake up. Sing a dream.” Skeptics who deem protest-oriented verse to be ineffective or outmoded will struggle with most of Lang’s writing, but for others, it will be a persuasive call to action.
A forthright, energizing collection.