Point Blank: Poems by Alan King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was given this book by the poet author, Alan King, to review. I think these kinds of poems are timely and needed at this moment in our history. King invites his readers into his life in such a vulnerable and authentic way.
I loved a lot of the references and metaphors. Food is probably my favorite of his imagery. I can almost smell the food cooking in the kitchen – the coconut and okra. His parents are immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago which seems to play heavily in with the food. It made it feel welcoming and homey, nostalgic for family.
Some of my favorite poems were about his family. “The Hostess” about his mom welcoming his dad home with food. “The Listener” about his aunt and how her memories live on in the small reminders around him.
But they also described his perspective on racism and racial profiling. “Striptease” is not what it sounds like it would be like. It’s about his cousin being accused of shoplifting. But the vulnerable wordplay is raw and honest.
Also, he has some comic book references, which I can relate to, as I like the superhero comics. “Hulk” which is the first poem in the book was really good about stereotypes put on black men (and I love the twist at the end).
There are a few poems with profanity, and there is some sexual and violent content in some of the poems as well, but as a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it to those who want to broaden their perspective and understand what it is like for black males and immigrants and sons of immigrants. Very good work.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a Young Adult Coming of Age Contemporary Fiction. It’s written completely in poetry form, which I thought was perfect for National Poetry Month in April. I received my copy in my Page Habit box. It’s not really something I might have picked up on my own, although the format was quite intriguing, and I might have gotten it much later in the year. The book came out in March.
The story follows Xiomara, a 15-year-old girl living in Harlem in the present day. Her family is from the Dominican Republic, but her and her twin brother were born in America. Her mother is a devout Catholic and her father a recovering womanizer who doesn’t speak much. Xiomara has to navigate high school, the neighborhood, her changing body and the remarks from boys and men alike about those changes, as well as her mother’s strict opinions and rules about faith.
I was actually surprised how much faith is the center of this story. Xiomara, in several of the poems, examines her doubt and her struggle with faith and her opinion of God. The line that caught my breath was “God just wants me to behave so I can earn being alive.”
Since the book is mostly written in poetic form, the plot goes pretty quickly. It covers from the end of summer to the beginning of the next spring. So much happens in that timeframe that develops the characters, especially Xiomara and her brother. The book is divided into three parts, and the third part I just breezed through because the plot speeds up and so much of the story really plays out in that last section.
There is profanity in the book, as well as a lot of sexual content. There is one poem about masturbation and several about her relationship with a boy in bio class. The conflict of sexual urges versus waiting to be ready is apparent through most of that relationship.
There are a few moments of violence, but nothing graphic. Xiomara, before she really gets into the poetry, relied on her fists to protect herself and her brother. But that really was more just referenced than spelled out.
I think it might be a good book to read with a mother and daughter. It definitely would spark conversation with the endless pressures young girls deal with in today’s society as well as within the church. I would recommend it, but with the caveats of the profanity and sexual content. But the ending of the book is so beautiful. Flawed, but completely beautiful, which is why I give it four stars and a recommendation.