An eclectic collection of poetry explores Los Angeles architecture, a Native American trickster, and a talented pig.
In smart, accessible free-verse poems, Frosch (Plum Gut, 1979, etc.) creates a dizzying and gleeful tour de force for readers. The clever and playful book begins with a poem inspired by a New York Times article about a skydiving pig, told from the animal’s point of view: “I was what happens for a while / Between a syringe of sperm and a porkchop.” The author continues this adapted perspective in poems told in the voices of a flounder, a bluefish, and a sea robin. A series of eight poems places a Native American mythological character, Trickster, in the Big Apple, where he delays a condo meeting, cheats on a standardized test, lobbies for and against a scoop-the-poop law, steals a car, and joins the police force, among other exploits. In “Los Angeles Architecture,” the narrator recounts all of his unlucky (and fantastical) real estate endeavors, one as extreme as a home cantilevered over a cliff: “For a front lawn / I had the Abyss. My guests had to do / a highwire act to get to the front door.” In “Three Notes From New York,” the poet recalls 9/11 and its brutal aftermath: “Out the window a whole slab of horizon is just gone.” The author concludes with “22 Views of Chestnut Drive,” in which the narrator captures a neighborhood through the eyes of 22 artists, including Monet, Degas, Picasso, and van Gogh. Frosch excels at original descriptions, such as that of Hubert the Plowman, who has “the loudest laugh in the pub, ham fists / Banging on the table.” The author’s sense of humor is sly and subtle, and his unexpected plot twists surprise and delight, such as an encounter with a “surging, pulsating, / screaming blob” of children at the Louvre that results in the narrator’s rediscovering the joys of gallivanting with youth through an art museum. Frosch makes poetry downright fun.
A carnival of poetic storytelling that will grab readers’ attention from the first page and never let go.
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.