A deeply felt, hit-and-miss collection that limns the conflicts and consolations of manhood in two different and sometimes...


Military life, lost loves, and the regrets of aging inform this debut collection of poetry.

Writing separately but presenting their poems in a single volume, Pattan, an Army doctor, and Brender, who led a platoon in Iraq, explore themes of duty and sacrifice, leadership and responsibility, feminine sweetness and sacredness, loss and remorse. Pattan’s poetry has a more conventional perspective, tinged with nostalgia and sentimentality and sometimes stiff with rhetoric. Praising “A Soldier,” he writes: “In his courage we all find protection / In his bravery he grants liberty / In spontaneous guile he’s bereft / But with a bully or trickster he’s deft.” In the stentorian “Bruder’s Boys,” a beloved high school coach subjects the team to “interval sprints until the muscles would fail / Make or run drills till fear of failure did set sail.” The political complaint “American Dream” decries “a border unguarded and bursting at that seam” and hears “the Hill/Bill’ies in D.C. saying profit must die / The noise of them printing money and taking their fee / too happy to bill this to you and to me.” In “Dreaming of Maxxy,” an elegy to a dog, the poet avers unpersuasively that “I’d surely give a thousand bright tomorrows / If I could only pet you one more time.” In a softer register, Pattan frankly hymns “The Last Great Kiss”—“Me standing quaking, naked and bare / Her reposed and cool and too austere / But fully clothed in beauty’s gear”—and recalls the chaste allure of a girl in his third-grade class, “spare or knowing or slyly coy,” in “The Joyful Smile.” While sincere, the emotions in Pattan’s poems often feel too processed and distanced by literary artifice to be compelling. Brender’s poetry is more personal, psychological, and focused on specific images and moments. In the haiku “Night Watch,” he evokes “korean snow falls / the foreign night air numbs me / I bear its cold weight,” while the austere “I’ve Sore Feet” starts with a soldierly grumble, then relaxes into yearning. (“I’ve / sore feet / in this old cot / that’d / gladly / walk a bit more / to / be by / yours, ’stead of not.”) Brender’s exploration of relationships ranges from the jaunty “Text Message,” which celebrates “subtle words / simple texts / flirty thoughts / wide-eyed sex” to the complex breakup poem “I Would that I Were Dreamt,” which plays on giddy inversions of desire as the jilted poet looks for his former lover: “I would that I were sought / instead of seeking / so each turned head might / hide my looked-for face / or that its ghost would steal your / breath with each unexpected phone call.” Deep sorrow erupts in “Fathers,” a rueful meditation on the price that “unrelenting life” exacts on adulthood, bewailing “my sin, it’s as black as night / it blots out the shining sun.” Brender’s poems are concise and simple in form, though not always in content; at their best, they explore masculine themes with an uncommon immediacy and freshness.

A deeply felt, hit-and-miss collection that limns the conflicts and consolations of manhood in two different and sometimes clashing poetic styles.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-4069-9

Page Count: 126

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2017

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


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.


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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