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Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King

Source: Poet
Paperback, 40 pgs.
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Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King is a powerful chapbook that tackles fatherhood, family demons and traumas, and finds the bright light in the darkness. What King always does well in his verse is to find the hope even in the darkest moments.

In the opening poem, “In Your Dreams,” the young man is dodging not only physical blows from his father and trying to sway away from his emotional jabs. He reminds us that those traumas are the past and in our reliving of them, we can change the ending and manifest that in our own, true lives. King uses these boxing metaphors in a few of the poems and it serves as a way to remind us that life is not a straight line journey from point A to point B — there are a lot of curves and turns along the way.

When the chapbook shifts to his own journey as a father, the light of hope shines brightest. I absolutely loved “The Light Inside.” It’s such a beautiful poem in which the poet is watched as he contemplates “the country of fatherhood,/where experience alone won’t grant you citizenship.//” He’s folding onesies and waiting for his daughter to arrive where “Everything hangs, waiting for you to fill them/the way your mom and I waited for you//” and “patience is the currency/of anything worth having.//”

Parenthood is a tough state but absolutely worth it for those committed to doing it and nurturing young life. And yes, like King says, “parenting is like gardening.” But in that effort, we also have to tend to our own scars and past traumas so that they don’t poorly influence how we tend our own gardens. Crooked Smiling Light by Alan W. King is a love letter to his family, his children, and his own past, as he moves forward as a father and a more whole human being. Love and hope are in every corner of this collection, and there is a push for more out of life and a recognition of simplicity, beauty, and importance.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Alan King is an author, poet, journalist and videographer, who lives with his family 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.

King is the author of POINT BLANK (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and DRIFT (Aquarius Press, 2012). King’s honors include fellowships from Cave (cah-veh) Canem (cah-nem) and Voices of Our Nations Arts (VONA) Foundation, three Pushcart Prize nominations as well as three nominations for Best of the Net selection.

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. Visit his website, Facebook, Twitter, and on YouTube.

Mailbox Monday #649

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Crooked Smiling Light by Alan King for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Alan King’s 3rd collection is both a departure from his previous books and a continuation of his observations and experiences living in the United States as a Black man.

“To read Alan King’s Crooked Smiling Light is to get an honest take on what it means to be a grown ass Black man in a world with little love, or even use, for grown ass Black men. In this latest collection, King riffs on such varied themes as fatherhood and family, poetry and ambition, sex and sacrifice, with the same insight and style, the same blue candor, longtime readers have come to expect. Fans of Drift and Point Blank will find in this volume a wonderful addition to the King cannon. New readers will wonder why nobody has pulled their coat until now.” –John Murillo, author of Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry.

“Poetry is a context for our wounds. And what if a wound becomes courage; and what if that courage becomes language, and then language starts shining — vindicating everything, making our lives clear and beautiful in the telling. A favorite poet, Alan King, shows us how to do it —in his stunning new book.”

Grace Cavalieri, Maryland Poet Laureate

I find myself rewarded for a patient reading. The poems are never far from the themes of family, parenting, and legacy.

—Steven Leyva, Washington Independent Review of Books,

“King’s third collection is multi-faceted and multi-layered in its themes and within the questions it asks of itself, of the speaker, and of the reader. King references mythic Jedi temples, suicidal bees, and the perpetually liminal late-night diner in a collection that serves as reflection on what it means to be a Black husband, father, protector, provider, and survivor in this world.”

Auburn Avenue

Check out the intro video:

The Death of a Migrant Worker by Gil Arzola from Rattle.

Gil Arzola’s father was a migrant worker raised in Bustamante, Mexico, who crossed like so many others when he was fifteen. His mother was born and raised in Robstown, Texas, to a cobbler father and a mother who died when she was eleven. Together they found their way to Northwest Indiana and a migrant camp, working their way north in the back of trucks and old cars. One day they stopped. And stayed. The poems are drawn from Gil’s memory, not necessarily the most important days but the ordinary days where we spend most of our lives. They are about people like so many others who carve out lives without applause and hope to leave their children a better life. The Death of a Migrant Worker is a gift and monument of words to Gil’s parents. It is a way of saying “these people passed through this way, and here’s what they did.”

A Mother’s Tale & Other Stories by Khanh Ha for review in November.

A Mother’s Tale is a tale of salvaging one’s soul from received and inherited war-related trauma. Within the titular beautiful story of a mother’s love for her son is the cruelty and senselessness of the Vietnam War, the poignant human connection, and a haunting narrative whose set ting and atmosphere appear at times otherworldly through their land scape and inhabitants.

Captured in the vivid descriptions of Vietnam’s country and culture are a host of characters, tortured and maimed and generous and still empathetic despite many obstacles, including a culture wrecked by losses. Somewhere in this chaos readers will find a tender link between the present-day survivors and those already gone. Rich and yet buoyant with a vision-like quality, this collection shares a common theme of love and loneliness, longing and compassion, where beauty is discovered in the moments of brutality, and agony is felt in ecstasy.

What did you receive?