Weber’s debut features one-a-day sonnets that explore the quotidian and the divine.
The San Diego–based author plays with the strict structure of the sonnet form in this hefty collection while also addressing diverse subjects. She manages to pack plenty of personal experiences into the 14-line rhyme scheme, telling tales of missing the bus, enduring food poisoning, and longing for air conditioning. With a careful balance of humor and seriousness, Weber drops in references to pop-culture touchstones, such as the ice bucket challenge, popularized in 2014, and Harry Potter; other poems address political events, placing them in the modern era despite their antiquated form. “Ferguson” expresses bystander despair in lines such as “There’s nothing I can do, this I admit, / And nothing to say, but I’m saying it.” In “Hopeless,” the poet copes with the 2016 presidential election results by seeking comfort in “puppy kisses.” Weber also turns her gaze toward the natural world; in “Calypte anna,” she offers an evocative description of a bird: “A hummingbird, afluff in coat of green, / Magenta scarf, and iridescent wig, / Demanded the location of his queen.” In “Blood Moon,” she paints a vivid picture of a pair of sky-gazers: “My seat’s a folded blanket on wet grass, / Our sprinkler-dampened dogs upon our laps.” The author cheekily plays with themes and titles, from a Gabriel García Márquez reference in “One Hundred Seconds of Solitude,” about her love of libraries, to “Mising Leter Sonet,” in which she removes one or more letters from the last word of every line. Throughout these poems, she also reveals herself to be a classically trained soprano and dog lover. Some experiments don’t succeed, however, such as “An Extremely Juvenile Sonnet,” in which Weber toys with genitalia-themed humor: “They say the penis [sic] mightier than the sword, / But sometimes writing makes one’s conscience prick—.” An excessive use of footnotes also errs toward overexplanation.
An ambitious poetry collection that will defy readers’ preconceptions of what a sonnet can be.
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.