A small volume that takes on large themes with mixed results.

READ REVIEW

Finding Home

Finch’s first poetry collection celebrates the lost landscapes of the American countryside and the freedoms of love and faith. 

Divided into four sections—“Middle America,” “The Martyrs,” “Loves, New and Lost,” and “America”—this collection succeeds best when its verses focus on the land. The opening poem, “My Wisconsin,” features a “Brilliant blue sky” and a breeze that transports the speaker, a “Weary, rootless traveler.” A sense of movement inheres in word repetition, as in “rolling Dairy State farms,” “rolling cumulus,” and “Sweet Wisconsin rolling through my mind’s content.” More variation in the diction, however, might have heightened readers’ interest in this beloved place. Nostalgia marks many of the poems, as in “I miss the high sky. / I miss the fires burning” from “Note from California.” Nostalgia, always a dangerous trope, garners sympathy for loves lost, but it should also spark skepticism about the perfection of the past. Still, a question posed to an Illinois hilltop (a “lone roll”) and its environs reaches deep: “a soft, warm wind, / Sweet earth scent, and billows of clouds / In a wide prairie sky of youth’s eternal hope. / Where have you gone?” More conventional sentiment appears in the love poems; a flowing dress offers allure and consummation, and readers may well succumb to the pleasures of bliss beneath such a generous shroud. Strange syntax, however, detracts from the book’s resonance; although experimentation can be valuable, it sometimes seems like an editing oversight. However, a late poem, “American Roadside,” achieves the momentum the poet seems to be striving for, despite the frequent absence of anchoring nouns: “Wind the round, deep, delved curve, / Forest swept over, around, dropping slow. / Sure and easy, forever, kept true and cottonwood grow; / Easy the peace that drops and slips, slow and sure….Deep the delved earth runs fast around.” Whoever winds the curve and sweeps the forest must be somehow divine. Although parts of the poem don’t make grammatical sense, readers may be willing to accede to the rightness of its motion.

A small volume that takes on large themes with mixed results.

Pub Date: July 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5127-0507-2

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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