A collection of poems about writing, ordering marijuana, and reevaluating one’s expectations.
The speaker in Akley’s (The Psalmist, 2017, etc.) works meditate on complications of daily life. The narrator’s complicated relationship with his ex-wife and their shared children reappears often, and Akley tends to favor description over projection, which gives the scenes a kind of emotional opacity. Plans to quit working for the U.S. Veterans Affairs office and travel are also a recurring motif, and after the fact, the author turns to reflect on that decision (a screen shot of a resignation email provides proof). A lot of Akley’s poems are about recursive worries about creative work, specifically regarding his ideas and writing practice. The poem’s speakers try to walk the line between drinking, smoking, and composing poetry with an authentic voice. It’s a style that fits neatly next to the late poet Charles Bukowski’s—grimy and to the point. (One poem even attempts to one-up Bukowski himself; apparently, even he’s too much of an aesthete.) The speakers’ swearing at Frédéric Chopin and admiration of David Foster Wallace are almost intriguing, and few books discuss both quantum mechanics and preparing beef jerky for one’s daughter’s breakfast. The pacing and motifs of most of the poems, however, are similar enough that they have a tendency to bleed together, although they are pulled back into relief by certain sharp phrases, such as “Sometimes I wish / my eyes were on a different face.” Later on, the poems are broken up by short narrative paragraphs and, in one case, by a full essay about the protagonist of Albert Camus’ absurdist 1956 novel The Fall. These sections give the impression that the book is organized more by chronology than by theme or style, although this choice is neither clear nor explained, which makes the overall goal of the book difficult to piece together.
Sparks of clear lines, dampened by too much repetition.