An ambitious, blustery debut that establishes a distinct and often arcane style.



Combining cosmic visions with earthy anecdotes, this hallucinogenic collection of poems tells of a moody man finding his place in the universe.

Much of Collins’ book is grounded in the physical world, where the first-person narrator smokes cigarettes, gets caught in the rain and struggles with love. But many of the poems are dreamy, combining nightmarish images with pop-culture references and political rants. Collins peppers epic phrases with complex and even made-up words: “America, America, / you soulavoric, luxaphobic pyrophile, / I will sing my dream until I am finished.” Some pieces read like stage monologues, direct and relatable, while others are broken up and surreal, alienating the reader with Collins’ wild expressions. His most enjoyable poems are also the easiest to follow, as with “To a Thief,” a haunting elegy to a late grandfather: “we / laughed like his body would never be ashes. This is just to say we / are still laughing in that remembrance, in that Cadillac I’ll never ride / in again, in that memory you will never take away.” In work thick with motifs—e.g., mysterious children, vivid dreams and the presence of supernatural beings—Collins uses such diverse references as “Waltzing Matilda” and Google searches in the same poem. He sometimes directly addresses the reader or other characters, as in the poem “Don’t get mad at me, Jesus.” The most interesting and frustrating aspect of Collins’ style is his use of fictional compounds, including “othertongues,” “enerdreadful” and “herenow’s allpulse,” among scores of others. The writing is free and inventive, building its own vocabulary, but the language is often so confusing and abstract that it struggles to make sense. Collins uses this lexicon to describe his relationship with big ideas and higher powers, as if more ineffable concepts require ever stranger words. His ponderous narrators struggle with fiery emotions, some flirting with violence. For readers of the New York School of poets, the avant-garde tone will likely sound familiar, even nostalgic.

An ambitious, blustery debut that establishes a distinct and often arcane style.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1942004066

Page Count: 84

Publisher: ELJ Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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A volume of poetry and prose that offers heroic visions of urban African Americans.


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.


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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