An ambitious but convoluted coming-of-age epic in verse.
Ostensibly, the poems in Grey-Sun’s (Divinities, Entangled, 2013) new collection tell the story of Sevin, a young black boy in a mostly white town, as he navigates the challenges and occasional pleasures of adolescence between fifth grade and his senior year of high school. “Ostensibly,” however, is the key word here; the verses offer few clear narrative moments and little that explicitly links them to the detailed plot synopsis in the author’s concluding “Notes” section. Instead, the poems evoke strong feelings through images and abstraction, although they sometimes get mired in clichés or incomprehensibility (as in the line “Victimhood is a must for martyrs for happiness”). At his best, however, the author uses language in a wry, wonderfully suggestive way to capture the turbulence of adolescent angst. “What the muddy hell is happiness / but a dung hill,” he muses in “Hell Is Happiness.” He certainly doesn’t lack a sense of musicality, and through rhyme, he manages occasional transcendent moments: “Crazy—love—death— / Where’s the save, Dove? / What, raised in lies, / falls in love?” Readers who enjoy demanding, puzzlelike books may be enchanted as they attempt to decipher the narratives running through Grey-Sun’s poems—fully understanding the plot requires attention and research—but others may be exasperated by how the language often obscures, rather than reveals, the story. This seems to be a deliberate choice on the part of the author, whose introduction reads like a disclaimer: “Spring’s Fall is not an easy read, but it’s not nearly as challenging as growing up.”
A good choice for poetry readers who enjoy a challenge, but one that may frustrate those seeking a more immediate payoff.