A worthy collection full of memorable anecdotes and meditative verse.


A volume explores nature, history, mortality, and the wonder of living in poetry and prose.

In this collection of 66 short works, Cruess (Time Is All We Have, 2017) revisits themes and techniques featured in his debut book. Whether inspired by the music of Rosanne Cash, Mama Cass, Leonard Cohen, Sarah Brightman, or Andrea Bocelli or by national tragedies like the Challenger explosion in 1986 or the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the author is able to construct thought-provoking texts in a concise manner. For example, in the prose piece “The Bridge,” he manages to connect disparate moments spanning several decades within the space of three pages: hearing news of the Chappaquiddick scandal in 1969 while working in Venezuela; spotting the infamous bridge from an airplane 10 years later; interacting with Edward Kennedy during the 1980 presidential campaign; and watching the 2017 film about the tragedy. Indeed, the author’s extensive travels provide many opportunities for observation and interpretation. Notably, solid Spanish skills are on display in his translations of a relatively long graffiti text spotted in Havana and a conversation with a cab driver in San Juan. An encounter with a street cleaner in Havana, recounted in the tale titled “Diego,” encapsulates the Mariel boatlift from 1980 and an ignominious return to Cuba years later. In terms of poetry, readers with a keen eye and an attuned ear will appreciate the consonance and assonance in his description of an earthquake: “The room moves / Like a rag doll / In a big dog’s mouth.” Cruess illuminates more mundane events in verse as well, such as spending a humid Easter weekend in Miami’s Little Havana: “Bed sweating wet / in the light of / a tropical / moon sucking breezes / through coconut palms.” Through creative use of line breaks, indentation, and gaps within lines, his verse often invites multiple readings. He also juxtaposes poems to great effect, such as “Old,” “My Dad on his 86th,” and “Papa, must I die?” The first represents the common experience of turning into one’s parents. In the second, he gazes down mournfully at his elderly father. And in the third, a father speaks to a child about death, closing with two tender lines: “Without thinking twice / I would choose this time    with you.”

A worthy collection full of memorable anecdotes and meditative verse.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-79161-678-6

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Out Reach Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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