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Drift by Alan King

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 102 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Drift by Alan King, who read at the 4th DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, has a musicality that is distinctly urban and young male, but it transcends these characteristics in the interplay of images he uses to describe not only lovers, but also friendships and hardships. Some of his lines will have you squaring up for a boxing match, while others will have your mouth watering.

from "Translation" (pg. 56)

That evening, when you climbed
on the back of my mountain bike, I might
have been rickshawing a dignitary the way
the hummingbird in my chest fluttered
with your arms around my waist;

King has the distinct ability to put readers in the moment with him, whether his narrators are teenagers unsure of romance or college students unable to stay away from trouble. Some of my favorite poems in this collection are in the voice of Pinky and the Brain on how they’ve become who they are and why they act the way that they do — you even get a little insight into why they are still friends, despite their differences.

Another of my favorites includes an insider’s look at AWP in which a young writer sees the idols of his book spines acting like fools. Some of these poems are very tongue-in-cheek, including a pep talk a poet receives during the month-long write a poem a day challenge. But many of them tackle serious issues adolescents face, particularly young black males.

Drift by Alan King is musical, funny, and serious. It asks questions about identity and fitting it, particularly what it means to be a “brother.” But it’s also about growing up in an unforgiving urban landscape.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Alan King is an author, poet, journalist and videographer, who lives with his wife and daughter in Bowie, MD. He writes about art and domestic issues on this blog.

He’s a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal.

As a staff writer for the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper, King often out-scooped the Baltimore Sun when covering housing and the Baltimore City Council. His three-part series on East Baltimore’s redevelopment and the displaced residents brought together stakeholders (community leaders, elected officials and developers) to work out a plan that gave vulnerable residents a role in helping to build up the city’s blighted neighborhoods.

He’s a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. His poems and short stories appear in various literary journals, magazines and are featured on public radio. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Point Blank by Alan King

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 104 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Point Blank by Alan King, who read at the second DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and Open Mic, opens with the poem “Hulk,” and there are a number of references to the comic book universe. In “Hulk,” the narrator believes he’s like everyone else able to walk where he wants and do what he likes as any other teenager, but given the hour and his skin color, reality begins to seep in, shattering the illusion like the hulk stomping through the city on a rampage.

King’s poems are like this — musical, dreamlike, and nostalgic — only to be abruptly shattered or altered by forces beyond the narrator’s control. Isn’t this the essence of life? It sometimes upends us without our consent.

With “point blank” precision, King tackles issues of race, poverty, stereotyping, and uncontrolled anger. His poems often begin with stereotypes of race and as the poem unfolds, he teaches his readers to see how ridiculous those generalizations can be. In “Swarm,” he asks, “That’s when I wonder/if Insecurity’s the biggest instigator./The one constantly egging you on/to prove yourself./”

King’s poems speak with frankness about living in America, a nation that pretends to be equal in so many ways, a nation that is still younger than it thinks it is, and a nation rebelling against the world even now. The beauty of these poems is that frankness and how he mixes it like a song with rhythm and firecracker lines like “to scorch my boss/with her fire-bottle words/” and “my veins and arteries are the blood’s highways/and interstates, that too much of what I love/will slow traffic like an accident.”

“Booth Seat” is one of the most moving poems in this collection in which Death is racing around the city seeking out and getting his prey. Understanding the murder rates here in the D.C. area, this poems strikes very close to home. It reminds us that life is fleeting, and that even the most anonymous of us is at risk. Point Blank by Alan King is a stunner, and you’ll never forget it.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Alan King is an author, poet, journalist and videographer, who lives with his wife and daughter in Bowie, MD. He writes about art and domestic issues on this blog.

He’s a communications specialist for a national nonprofit and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal.

As a staff writer for the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper, King often out-scooped the Baltimore Sun when covering housing and the Baltimore City Council. His three-part series on East Baltimore’s redevelopment and the displaced residents brought together stakeholders (community leaders, elected officials and developers) to work out a plan that gave vulnerable residents a role in helping to build up the city’s blighted neighborhoods.

He’s a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Low-Residency Program at the University of Southern Maine. His poems and short stories appear in various literary journals, magazines and are featured on public radio. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Mailbox Monday #467

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Point Blank by Alan King, which I purchased at the DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry reading this month.

“In Point Blank, we are given an intimate look at one man’s inner and outer life, but there’s no navel-gazing nonsense. There’s always an awareness, implied or explicit, of the sociopolitical crucible. With language both tough-minded and celebratory, Alan King ignites the important details of his experience, compelling us to ask what-plus-what added up to our own lives.” TIM SEIBLES, author of Fast Animal and One Turn Around the Sun

“Alan King is one of my favorite up-and-coming poets of his generation. His poems are not pop and flash, rather more like a slow dance with someone you’re going to love forever. Here you will find poignant slices of life, so bright in a rough age of race killings and hate speech. He reminds us that what matters has always mattered.” JOY HARJO, poet, musician, performer, and teacher.

Drift by Alan King, which I also purchased at the DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry reading this month.

Poetry. African American Studies. “Alan King reminds us of the beauty of efficiency. His poems do not waste moments or words. These are wonderful journeys into the lives of everyone (something of you is here, I guarantee it), effortless, peaceful but powerful walks that focus upon the compassionate things: friendship, love, family, justice, tradition. Alan King has started his own tradition in DRIFT, one born of his own generation but timeless and strong; a voice we should all hope will be showcased for years.”—Brian Gilmore, poet, public interest lawyer and columnist for The Progressive Media Project

Walk with Me by Debra Schoenberger for review from iRead Book Tours.

Whenever I’m asked “which is the best camera?” I pretty much respond: “the one you have on you.” In fact, most of the images in this book were taken with my cell phone simply because I always have it with me. ​

This is not only a book about street photography but a visual diary, or collection of quirky, unusual and sometimes just plain weird photos I’ve taken over the course of the last decade. ​

As a street photographer, I need to be an assiduous walker. My sneakers often take me to little known, hidden corners, seaweed strewn (and sometimes stinky) beaches and really cool back alleys of my rather small island city of Victoria, BC.​

I’ve also included images of curiosities I’ve seen throughout my travels.
​​
Everyone sees the world differently and this is my collection of the quirkyness that I call life.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. . . .
Readers will gobble up this hilarious new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.

What did you receive?

2nd DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading Recap

This past weekend’s DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and Open Mic was once again at the Gaithersburg Public Library, with featured poets Joanna Howard from A Splendid Wake, Alan King, and Sarah Browning of Split This Rock fame (celebrating 10 years this April).

I was really looking forward to this event because I’ve seen and connected with Sarah Browning on a couple of occasions, more recently through Facebook than anything, and I wanted to chat with her in person. I’ve also never heard her read her own work! What have I been doing? She’s dynamic as a speaker and a poet.

If you missed out on this event, you better not miss the next one in March.

Alan King and Joanna Howard are new-to-me poets, and I enjoyed Alan’s work so much I bought both his books at the event.  Joanna’s book is forthcoming and I cannot wait to get my hands on that too.  Please check out the Facebook Live of the event.

Here are some photos from the event:

We had a smaller than usual open mic session this go around, but I did read another poem this month.  I’m really making good on a promise I haven’t voiced aloud to anyone — I want to read more in public and more of my own poems. I hope to read at every one of these events, though some poems may be older as newer ones are not coming along fast enough.

If you’re in the Gaithersburg area on March 11, 2-4pm, I hope you’ll stop by and join us when Michele Wolf, Jennifer Wallace, and Maritza Rivera read their poems. Here’s the 2018 calendar of events.