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I’m taking a break this weekend from the celebration of band names in order to participate with the Writing Against the Darkness team in The Longest Day, a dawn-to-dusk fundraising event for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Once again, an anthology from Not A Pipe Publishing provides a diverse array of responses to the theme. This time, we see denial in all its forms.
In her debut collection, Lydia K. Valentine wields precise language and classic poetic forms to lay down hard truths about race and racism in America.
Full disclosure: I was excited enough about this project to submit a story. It’s an honor to be included in a collection of such excellent and bracing work.
Each of the 25 works has its own take on the theme of resistance to fascism/authoritarianism/tyranny. Some are cautionary tales of the oppression future Americans may have to live under, some portray active resistance to injustice, and others provide the satisfaction of oppressors brought low by their own hubris.
It’s hard to pick favorites, but I will name a few. I couldn’t stop thinking about “Growth” by Janet Burroway, a grim and heartbreaking look at public utilities we take for granted. How self-sufficient would the average American be with all the comforts of modern life … except sewers and waste disposal? “Shout” by Benjamin Gorman is modeled on the Biblical account of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, but with a different wall and an unexpected Promised Land. “Last of Our Kind” by Heather S. Ransom is a harrowing thriller of smart, capable women on the run from active, deadly misogyny. “The Creamy Ichor Sauce over Lake Michigan” by TJ Berg is a darkly hilarious Lovecraft pastiche with a satisfying end to the corrupt powerful. “No Collision” by Jennifer Lee Rossman also provides comic relief, in the form of a deep space mission and some information the President doesn’t want found. “Dandelion” by K. A. Miltimore speaks of the value of books and kindness. The final piece, the poem “Anthem” by Bethany Lee, reminds us of what really matters and rhymes love with love.
Whether scary, dark, funny, or hopeful, each piece is encouragement to stand up for what’s right before it’s too late.
Release date: February 2, 2020. On pre-order now:
From the back of the book: “These are poems about surviving doomsdays. People use the word doomsday to describe the apocalypse, and apocalypse simply means ‘an uncovering of knowledge.’ Every life has its share of apocalyptic moments—not only great catastrophes, but also small secret revelations, and surprise twists of good fortune as well. They leave you with lessons learned, and stories to tell.”
I’ve often said I don’t trust poetry. Why is it so sneaky, and what is it for, anyway? But I love this idea of personal-sized apocalypses, and surviving to tell the tale. “Doomsday” also implies approaching disaster, and these poems tell of an escape, as in a disaster flick, not without dangers and setbacks, but step by step, poem by poem, reaching for something better. The 22 short poems (again, personal-sized, but not sentimental or self-indulgent) are arranged to suggest a narrative of that hard-fought journey to freedom.
The first poems present a child who can’t afford to be too innocent but who stubbornly forms her own self, chasing pixies in “Adrenaline and Sassafras,” spooking and thrilling cabin-mates in “The devil in the room,” and campground trick-or-treating in the spooky, atmospheric prose poem “Peanut Butter Moon,” in which she emerges “from the trees, one chocolate bar clutched to my chest like a dark moon medal—a consolation prize for coming back from the dead.” Then a teenager takes risks and finds a measure of freedom in “Anarchy called collect and I was happy to answer” and “Mint car.” The title poem has her selling off pieces of her childhood to fund her escape, anticipation and discipline overcoming nostalgia. The escape happens, but leads through peril (“Something you see in movies”), disorientation (“North by Midwest”), and loss (“Meeting Tink at a bar in Heaven”) to grown-up love and home (“A change of habit”, “They say three is a magic number”). In the final poem, “Gravida 5, Parity 3,” the child is now a mother considering the three children she has, the one on the way, and her “little never sprouted” who “was the first, a scout sent to map a universe I’ll never know.” Loss, abundance, and wonder, all compressed and distilled in less than a page.
That, my friends, is what poetry is for. Check it out.