Strong themes keep these traditional poems from feeling outdated.

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Love and Death

A BOOK OF POEMS

Lewinter (Elementary Number Theory with Programming, 2015, etc.) channels Tennyson and Dickinson in well-constructed but old-fashioned poems about loss and the search for true love.

Reflecting both his Ph.D. in mathematics and his MFA in music, Lewinter’s poetry marries precise form with pleasing rhythm. Although the stanza structure varies, lines unfailingly rhyme, either in an ABAB or AABB pattern. Along with end rhymes, internal half-rhymes and alliteration accentuate the flow. The often archaic poetic vocabulary—“Tis,” “oft,” “naught,” “yore,” “nary,” “whence,” and so on—is of a piece with the conventional rhyming. As the title suggests, many of the poems are elegies for the lost: his Holocaust survivor father, dead friends, and former lovers. Lewinter also commemorates soldiers’ sacrifices and marvels that, decades later, he still misses his mother’s reassuring love. There are echoes of Dickinson in Lewinter’s imagined collision with death: “Death brushed by me yesterday, / It was the briefest meeting. / I hurried on along my way, / The encounter short and fleeting!” Elsewhere, he recalls Tennyson by celebrating the heights of human achievement (“At Times When I, with Spirits Low” and “It Can Be Done”) or evoking unrequited courtly love (“You Love Me Not As I Love You”). Travel pieces take on the weight of epic journeys—“Who knows what lies in store for me? / Some say a journey to the sea. / Then, a westbound cloud I’ll board”—with a scene on a cruise providing a clear contrast between hedonism and “lofty things that truly matter.” Cheesy patriotic poems, overabundant exclamation points, and confusingly unpunctuated lines (“Fear you are not wanted here,” “Stranger you affected me”) are minor drawbacks, and more attention could be given to layout. However, homosexual love is a compassionate theme, as in “Homophobes” and “Fly Away,” in which “love demands that one defies / Any power or force or will or whim / That would deny the love ’tween me and him.”

Strong themes keep these traditional poems from feeling outdated.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5168-6595-6

Page Count: 90

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2015

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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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