Fine verse about falling in love, falling back out, and coming of age.
How many reams of poetry have been written on the theme of unrequited desire? What would William Shakespeare be without his dark lady? Dante without Beatrice? William Butler Yeats without Maud Gonne? The story’s much the same in Stott’s deft collection, which tells of stunted yearning and unfulfilled, unreturned love. Yet the roles here are filled by new players. The lover is Eliza, a young poet lusting after a Baptist deacon who was once her professor. The older man is married, but he accepts his student’s advances—innocently at first, then less so. Their decades-spanning relationship is initially chaste—then less so—but when the flame gets too hot, the professor flees, retreating to his spouse with his tail between his legs. It’s a tale as old as time but no less moving for its age. Stott breathes new life into the “lunacy of love”with the help of her poignant, unpretentious verse. Thus there’s Eliza pining in the classroom: “It is impossible, perhaps, / to love a man / for the richness of his hands: / for things they’ve scribbled across a board.” Then there’s his regard, turning to her, “Last night, you circled me with your arms / gone brown from years of loving the sun. / What’s gotten into me, if not / a carnival of love.” Finally, seemingly inevitably, there’s his betrayal: “now your talk’s grown holy: / ‘sacred matrimony.’ / Sound of locusts; your strict voice / crying in our wilderness…. / Sermon overdone.” Stott’s poetic form throughout this finely told tale is like a fisherman’s net: structured but flexible. The mortar that holds the bricks of her verse together is the Western canon—from Dante to Danae and from Khayyam to the Quran. Her default stanza is short—a couplet or triplet—but evocative even in its concision. Her language is precise but unaffected—a difficult balancing act that she pulls off with seeming ease.
Sweet, crisp poetry about loving a man one shouldn’t.
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.
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.