Soul 7: Poetry 4 The Soul: The Black Diaries, by Alisha Rylander
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BooksGoSocial. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This small collection of seven poems did not feel like a full book, but rather felt like the transcribed urban poetry of a mixtape. As someone who is both a fan of poetry  and at least an occasional poet  myself, this is certainly the sort of book I feel well qualified to write about and had some enjoyment reading. Of course, I found much to criticize in the book as well, bu t I had some enjoyment in reading it and thought that the book and especially the poet had something to offer. This particular book is part of a series of color-themed poetry books and I can see these poems being read aloud to an appreciative audience on urban radio or a somewhat edgy coffeehouse or independent bookstore. If I am not precisely the person who would most appreciate this work, the fact that I know that an audience for this book exists ought to provide some encouragement for the young poetess.
The seven poems are framed by two poems that present a paradox, or at least a tension. The first poem is a somewhat sarcastic and caustic rejection of “American Freedom” while the last poem is a heartfelt plea for a unity in diversity as “One Nation.” These ideas are somewhat in contrast, but it would indicate that while the author feels alienated from the contemporary patriotism that exists, she longs for belonging in a united nation, presumably one where she feels accepted and respected. This concern with acceptance and respect and its absence is a frequent one. “Young King” sounds like its lyrics could belong on a post-Roots early 1990’s Eddie Murphy album while “I Am Me” calls on the audience to overlook the author’s sins which have put her under unfriendly scrutiny and harsh rejection. A couple of times, the author appears to struggle with making words like trees and angels plural, using the apostrophe where it is not necessary or proper. Throughout the book the author uses all caps as a way of emphasis, which comes of as yelling in contemporary language and is a holdover from late Victorian advertising that I find both distressingly common and deeply irritating in my own reading experiences.
Overall, this book shows the occasional rhyming verses but relies more on New Age self-empowerment cliches and progressive social politics to deliver its message. Compared with the poetry of the author’s peers, this verses comes off rather well–I would vastly rather read these poems than read the lyrics sheets for a Future album or one by any of his legions of imitators or competitors in mumble rap. Looked at from the point of view of great poetry, these poems come off like early efforts that think they are more original than they are, a common affliction for writers, myself included. If you feel nostalgic for early Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu poetry and enjoy your poetry flavored strongly with a leftist political worldview, you will find much to appreciate here. Even those who have a strong distaste for the religious and political worldview shown here should at least be able to give the author a few points for effort and feel the sincere hope that someday she ceases to seek a god in her own flawed image and allows God to reshape and mold her into His own image and likeness.
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