Albrecht's Latest Book of Poetry Focuses on Addiction
The house of poetry has many mansions, and it’s fair to say that there’s a home for almost any practicing poet who has the talent, the heart and inclination to contribute to the art form.
After all, American poets are nothing if not egalitarian. And Lord knows they contribute and contribute and contribute….
With all that superfluous verse floating around, readers are likely to come to one conclusion: The real magic, the true talent, is to take the old and make it new — and in doing so make it about something in particular. That’s exactly what Malaika King Albrecht does in her new book, “Spill.”
In an age of the wildest of literary diversity, a plurality of forms and voices and tones, Albrecht has decided to make a stand using her specific experience. And thank goodness for that.
Her first book, “Lesson in Forgetting,” drew its inspiration from her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, a terrible enough circumstance, but one from which she drew an exceptional book of poetry. The slim volume was a finalist in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Books Awards and in the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Award — testament enough to the power of her poetry.
“Spill” focuses outward into the painful world of addiction, and many of the poems use persona to glimpse the subculture that’s rarely touched upon, even by poets who are afflicted by the disease. In “Detox Subway,” “What I Say to the Admissions Counselor at Serenity Lodge,” “He’s in a Better Place Now,” and “The Perfect Ending” the world of addiction is much in evidence. “The Dealer” is a particularly strong example of how simple images and metaphor come to represent the power that rules over far too many of us:
A flock of starlings
catch an edge of sunlight,
and their wings flare iridescent.
He sits on the park bench
raises his hands, and sunflowers
appear, bloom, and go to seed.
Eat, he says.
The starlings land as if thrown
to the ground and eat.
He says, Break.
Legs snap like twigs,
and the birds rise, a dark cloud.
He whispers, Die.
Birds, heavy as hailstones, fall mid-flight.
Other sections of “Spill” deal with the intensely personal. “The Artist and the Doctor: A Portrait of Parents,” “Swimming Lessons,” “A Family History,” “Flying Lessons,” and “How It’s Written” are crafted snapshots into the most personal moments in a poet’s life. “I Swallow Hot Coals” is especially effective:
Born burning with hair,
eyes the red-brown of hers,
of Grand Canyon clay,
I blistered Mom’s belly.
Dad drowned me in ice like a fever.
Mom lit me in my tenth year
when she carved red mouths
into her wrists. Smiles bled
on carpet as she hugged me.
Then Dad froze my ember.
Mom flooded herself with Gallo
and yellow valiums, smoked
men in hotel bed next to me.
Dad grew into an Easter Island
statue — huge granite head, no body.
At twenty, watching Mom float
like a corpse in an ice cube
in Dad’s scotch glass, I ignited
myself in an alley, burned to cinders
and feather-light ashes in the wind.
These poems give every evidence that Albrecht will continue to grow, change, and become. Long after other poets have given up or settled on metaphysical uncertainties, her clear, certain voice will no doubt be worth hearing.
Contact Stephen Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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