A poet bares his soul and eases his troubled mind in this debut collection of verse.
There’s a lot going on in Guest’s volume of poetry, and that’s a good thing. His book is divided into three movements that might roughly be described as the confessional, the observational, and the romantic. The first section, titled “Shards of Truth,” is the rawest, most honest. It features the poem “Plight,” whose opening lines could serve as an epigraph for the movement as a whole: “Words and ideas came to me / in a deafening multitude that could / have frightened the most abhorrent / behemoth you could have conjured up.” The poet’s muse here might be William S. Burroughs, who is similarly blunt and graphic in his explorations of his own mindscape. The second, mellower section is “Portal to the Soul.” For Cicero, the portal to the soul is the eyes, and this movement features many poems highlighting Guest’s visual connection to the world. Often, the author’s eyes fall on wildlife, producing works like “Scurrying”: “A pair of squirrels scurry up a tall tree noiselessly. / The merry couple jump off the branches to / Frolic along the wooden fences under the warm bower.” The poet clearly pays attention to details, and in this piece and elsewhere, he asks us to look with him at the wonders of nature. The final movement is “Love and What Comes Easier.” This is Guest at his most conventional, writing on relationships and romance. A representative poem from this movement is “Radiant Lips, Radiant Hips”: “Your radiant lips / mouth the words to a song / as you sway your hips. / The rhapsody is where you belong.” The great strength of this deeply personal collection is the fact that these three movements are both so distinct and so clearly defined. From them, readers learn that Guest is a poet with real range, and he has the ability to write well in a variety of discrete styles.
Three poetic movements, each one valuable and affecting.
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.
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.