This debut collection of devotional poetry both plumbs the depths of Christian faith and reaches toward the sky to laud the Creator.
People often think that Jesus had all the answers. But they often forget that he asked an awful lot of questions too: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own?” “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” “If you do not believe what Moses wrote, how will you believe what I say?” Neu channels Jesus’ inquisitive spirit in her capacious collection of poetry. In it, she roves far and wide through the landscape of Christian faith, addressing topics like the challenges of belief, the efficacy of prayer, and the solace God provides. But as she wanders, she’s always asking questions: In “Life’s Tests,” Neu asks: “What do you want of me, dear Lord, / of life’s tests I take and fail?” Elsewhere, she wonders: “If we could see through God’s eyes, / what would we really see? / Would we see the way things really are or the way they ought to be?” And in “Book of Heaven,” she asks: “Is your name in the Book of Heaven? / Is it written there with flair?” The technique is effective. All these queries come at the beginnings of poems, creating dramatic tension at the outset. This element pushes readers forward, building on their expectations that a resolution will arrive. When that answer comes, it usually appears in the form of the grace that is promised to believers. Thus, even through her questioning, the author affirms the basic truths of the faith. Neu’s language is limpid and approachable, and her writing is accessible for even the most casual reader of poetry. She writes almost all her poems in rhyme, and in a volume that extends to 250 pages, her verse occasionally starts to feel singsong-y. Fortunately, she often varies her form and meter, so this effect is seldom too pronounced. Throughout, she is awed by the wonder of God, and fellow believers should find strength and comfort in her musings.
Confident, probing praise poems for the thoughtful Christian.
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.