An evocative poetry book about the powers of healing and connection.

ALICE THE HEALER

A poetry collection that shows the devastating, exhausting effects of chronic pain and illness.

Ling offers a series of poems about a real-life woman who lived the latter part of her life in extreme physical pain. Alice grew up ballroom dancing and, as an adult, became one of the first female managers in the textile industry. When her body began to decline due to rheumatoid arthritis and Ménière’s syndrome, a disorder of the inner ear, her world became considerably smaller and more difficult to navigate. Ling presents the poems from his own perspective as one of Alice’s friends, caretakers and admirers. The verses provide empathetic accounts of Alice’s suffering and her courageous, admirable attempts to stay connected to the outside world, through church, family and the Internet.  The stronger poems contemplate how pain can take over the body, the mind and the spirit. “PAIN!” for example, plays on the idea that even Alice’s hair hurts: “[H]air should not hurt / you cannot comb pain / brush it away like hair / on the shoulder its there / getting bolder making me / feel older stiff and colder.” “HOSTAGE” describes pain as terrorists who have “hijacked the body. / Sometimes there seem to be / more gunmen than passengers, / she is all pain and no body.” Other poems explore how Alice survives as her own advocate—with doctors, emergency medical technicians and people who can’t fully understand the impact of living with chronic pain. In one of the more poignant verses, the narrator feels guilty for being able to live an “ordinary life” when “any other life to her / would be so rich.” Ling deftly and beautifully expresses one of the most significant challenges of chronic illness when it comes to visitors, including friends and family: “They do not come. / They cannot bear / to live their lives, / to sit and listen, / ask how are you, / and hear the honest answer.” Although the narrator clearly admires and loves his subject and sees her pain, he also recognizes that healing works both ways. In the collection’s title poem, he states, “[S]he would find me out and turn me round, / lift me up and gently put me down, / she in need of healing, healing me.”

An evocative poetry book about the powers of healing and connection.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4520-8132-8

Page Count: 60

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A volume of poetry and prose that offers heroic visions of urban African Americans.

SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR

A debut multigenre collection of short pieces presents vignettes focusing on the lives of African Americans from a variety of perspectives, both real and fanciful.

This eclectic anthology begins with an autobiographical sketch, “P Is for Pride and Perseverance,” in which King traces his early years from his 1979 birth to a 16-year-old mother to his incarceration for attempted robbery and his subsequent determination to do something positive with his life. “Baby Girl” reprises the story of King’s birth from his mother’s point of view, a girl whose teen pregnancy seems predestined by both her grandmother’s clairvoyant dreams and her own limited expectations. Other narratives are linked by shared characters, such as “Posse Up, Ladies First!” and “Thug Angel,” which provide somewhat idealized portraits of street gangs as building blocks of the black community. “Battle Kats” is an SF work about a group of humanoid felines from another planet who work undercover to defend Earth and its alien allies. The central section of the book is occupied by a collection of 21 poems. Some, like “Hold on to Love” and “Away From Home,” focus on romance while others, such as “The Rent Is Too Damn High!” and “Blockstars,” illuminate the experiences of working-class African Americans in inner-city neighborhoods. “Remember Me?” calls up the spirit of LaTasha Harlins, a young black woman shot by a Los Angeles shop owner in the early ’90s, speculating “I wonder what you could have been LaTasha?” King’s efforts to describe his personal struggles and the vibrant characters who populate impoverished black communities are ambitious and dynamic. His prose narratives are too short to feel really complete, but they deliver glimpses into a world mainly familiar to the urban poor, where drug dealing is one of the few available career choices, incarceration is a rite of passage, and street gangs view themselves as community leaders. While the author does have a tendency to romanticize life on the street, as in “Posse Up,” in which a girl gang maintains a strict “code of principles,” his writing presents a vision of what could happen if people worked to “play a part in the improvement of the community.”

A volume of poetry and prose that offers heroic visions of urban African Americans.

Pub Date: March 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4568-8093-4

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A nihilistic poetic remembrance that will appeal most to older teens and 20-somethings.

THE KING OF FU

Davis recounts the confounding pressures of his 1990s childhood in this debut memoir-in-verse.

When telling the story of your life, one might as well start at the very beginning. That’s exactly what the author does in this memoir, which he describes as “a thing like a very long lie to yourself.” Specifically, he tells of how “The White-Gloved Sheriff / kicked in the door / and / Pulled me” from his mother (whom he calls his “Supervisor”; he later calls her “the Computer Science Major,” “the Waitress,” and other occupational names). Unusually, he had horns and a lot of hair at birth, he says. He was immediately at odds with the people and other living things around him—his parents, his brothers, his family dog. As a toddler, he created an imaginary world for himself known as “FU,” which was “Filled with things that looked like me / And where things made sense / I was King.” His earliest years were characterized by horrible discoveries (school work, isolation, crushes, problems in his parents’ marriage), but his teen years proved to be an even greater series of highs and lows, involving confusion over geopolitical events, friends, computers, pornography, and marijuana. Like a novice who can’t quite figure out the rules of a game, Davis bumbles forward—all horns and fur and misunderstanding—inadvertently angering authority figures as he seeks an adequate method of self-expression. The poem is composed in short, direct lines, enjambed to emphasize particular words or phrases rather than establish a consistent overall rhythm. Davis’ idiolect is inventive in its names for things (siblings are “life partners,” pets are “prisoners,” teachers are “Part-Time Supervisors,” and so on), and his outsider’s observations of society are shrewd and often funny. However, the combination of snark and self-seriousness causes some poems to come off as petulant and cloying; as a result, it’s difficult to imagine anyone over the age of 22 finding the work emotionally affecting. Even so, the tone and style, coupled with debut artist Klimov’s truly engaging black-and-white illustrations should captivate readers of a certain anarchic mindset.

A nihilistic poetic remembrance that will appeal most to older teens and 20-somethings.

Pub Date: May 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71806-449-2

Page Count: 143

Publisher: Nada Blank Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2018

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