A dazzling work by a deeply intuitive writer.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018


A debut poetry collection that vividly captures both the dreams and despair of blue-collar America.

The geographic inspiration for Richardson’s masterful book is the industrial heartland of Ohio. The collection is divided into two sections: “The Fire’s Edge,” which focuses predominantly on growing up in the Rust Belt in the mid-20th century, a time of financial instability and decay; and “Untying,” which takes a broader look at uncertainties that increase as one gets older. The first section contains a series of poems that detail the 1970 Kent State University shootings, in which National Guardsmen killed four university students, and their aftermath. By far the most haunting is “Randomness,” which imagines the early-morning ablutions of Sandra Scheuer, one of the students killed: “She slid from her bed on the morning of May 4, / chose the bright red blouse for the occasion / of the day of her death.” “Fainting” captures the feeling of wooziness during the event itself (“Heart / accelerated, free agent of pace and rhythm / beating against my chest wall, room tilting”) and goes on to note that “those lost / unconscious moments exist somewhere / in the cosmos, owed to me by the fact / I have not lived them.” In these claustrophobic, unstable industrial terrains, poems sometimes glimpse beautiful vistas, as in “Youngstown, Ohio 1952”: “the air lifted enough / for me to see the fevered orange flush / of the open hearth on the horizon.” Here, the powerful beauty of a sunset mirrors the infernal glow of the steelworkers’ toil. But Richardson’s painterly use of imagery is but one of her many skills; another is the manner in which poetry and music coexist within her work. In the second section’s “In the Cardiologist’s Office,” Procol Harum’s 1967 song “A Whiter Shade of Pale” filters through waiting-room speakers and wraps around recollections of a traffic accident: “my hands circling his chest turning cartwheels on the floor my head against his back bracing at the place where the car crushed his heart.” This collection will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever pondered the ephemerality of each moment.

A dazzling work by a deeply intuitive writer.

Pub Date: July 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63534-605-3

Page Count: 70

Publisher: Finishing Line Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?