An intriguing, if tonally uneven, work that looks at the many faces of the author’s genealogy.



A prose and poetry collection of meditations on family history.

This latest book from Augustine (One Day Tells Its Tale to Another, 2014) is an intriguing mélange of prose segments and verse interludes of varying meters. She provides a broad spectrum of subjects and time periods but concentrates on her own family’s history over many generations. The narrative swoops and swerves between historical characters and vignettes, ranging from Ireland to America to Trieste, where the author’s ancestor Otillie Augustine lived when it was still an Austrian territory. Otillie speaks in her segment as if she’s the living receptacle of a genetic memory extending back centuries: “Between us we have known every happiness and a thousand catastrophes,” she says. “We will sing our death songs in low voices.” The elegant grandeur of some moments contrasts sharply but fruitfully with the quotidian details of others; Augustine plays on these contrasts with steady skill that enhances both types of memories: “I go home to the fifth floor walk-up on Christopher Street,” one verse declares, “where I live with Jim who plays a ghost on Dark Shadows.” The narrative voices and perspectives often change abruptly, and the verse forms have an almost equal diversity. Such tone-shifting can be disorienting, particularly as the quality of the verse varies dramatically. Some lines, for example, effectively mimic the epigrammatic power of Emily Dickinson, who’s invoked at the heading of every chapter, such as “My grandfather let me bang on his inky Underwood.” Others, however, display a slangy, free-verse laziness, as in a bit about the 2015 shootings of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris: “Shoot the Piano Player, / shoot the cartoonists. / Shoot. Cartoon. / Oooo sounds. / Bad moon rising.” Still, Augustine’s ambition throughout is obvious, and although her technique sometimes falters, she vividly evokes many individual characters and shows a consistently vigorous imagination.

An intriguing, if tonally uneven, work that looks at the many faces of the author’s genealogy.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5451-3794-9

Page Count: 76

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2017

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?