Lyrical, searching poems of darkness and flight, violence and rescue.


Collected poems that speak of worlds haunted by ghosts of the past, myth, and memory.

In this slender debut, Wallin brings together 21 poems ranging in length from haiku to single-page, multipart, and longer works. Some were previously published in literary magazines, such as The Portland Review and Zyzzyva. The title poem opens the book, establishing a speaker who’s exquisitely aware of damage: “It begins here, the glass air raw in your lungs.” The diphthong in “raw” is repeated in the third line, like so many contained screams: The night’s “small law gnaws you wrong.” The reason for this sense of horror is hinted at by two people who taught the speaker, presumably parents, with references to a “gruesome arm” and a mother’s “blood on the wood / of the first house.” Packing up this house and sitting on the porch at night, the speaker sees a frightening world of supernatural danger: “Branches twist into witches”; “Elms spook you, / one glove clinched stiff in thistle roots,” like the last remnant of someone swallowed up. Perseus—a figure developed at length in a later poem, “Perseus Speaks”—reminds the speaker that “No hero saved you then.” Bewildered by mythic shadows, the narrator searches to find the reality of these memories, “a garden laced in chains / or vines.” As in other works here, Wallin’s originality and compression are notable; though elliptical, the sentence “A hawk and mouse made red” is easy to grasp. On occasion, though, it’s more difficult to connect with Wallin’s lines, as in “Cigarettes Poked Up Your Pinocchio Nose,” which imagines a man either as or operating a ghoulish marionette. “Skulls howl in an / odd box. / Slam them!” This is cryptic; a marionette could be kept in a box, or a coffin could be an “odd box,” but who or what would slam them, and how is that force related to the dancing Pinocchio figure’s “light trot”? Similarly puzzling are the lines “The dead sleep in a ba- / by’s lake” and “Sun’s in the / blubber.” Many poems demonstrate Wallin’s musical sense of language; for example, “My bike clicked chrome” (“May, and Again May”) and “Papa’s cot is a locket of sod” (“The Absence of White”). In particular, “Perseus Speaks” takes on the rocking rhythm of the wooden chest cast into the sea containing Danaë and her child, Perseus—mimicking “how they sway. / Mother, son / Mother, son.” These rhythms are accompanied by images of flighted creatures (seabirds, swans, Icarus, Perseus himself); as in the title poem, the speaker struggles to distinguish myth and reality: “Swans were dreams / Fly lit. I wanted them, / their suchness.” In the final work, “The First House, Later,” the speaker resolves his sense of mystery, deciding that darkness is “ontic,” “open,” and finally “mundane.” But a question is left open as the speaker goes to bed, the line trailing off in a manner suggestive of sleep and dreams.

Lyrical, searching poems of darkness and flight, violence and rescue.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-7321802-0-8

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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?