Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Poem Traveled Down My Arm by Alice Walker

 A Poem Traveled Down My Arm by Alice Walker is a collection of poems and doodle-like drawings that reveal Walker's spiritual context and personal beliefs.  In the introduction to the book she explains that was dealing with a writing drought--not so much a block as a burnout, no longer wanting to write.  Who can blame her?  Most famous for her novels, Walker is prolific, writing essays and poetry and is politically active, speaking out against the social injustices she sees around her.

I have read a few of Walker's poems, usually in other collections or as a complement to an article in a magazine.  I have been touched by her novels and blown away by some of her essays.  So I was eager to immerse myself in her poetry and intrigued by the context of her being driven to pour herself onto the page in both words and images.

The end result, however, is disappointing.  The work is mostly self-indulgent, with occasionally nice or even pretty lines but nothing truly provocative.  These poems are easy, not in that they are non-academic, something that would not trouble me in the least.  I would have been thrilled if she had been challenging the status quo.  However, these poems read more like something comfortable.  Compare advertising with literature, psycho-babble versus deep thinking, and you get some concept of what I am saying.  This is simply not Walker at her best.

Perhaps if the poems had been collected with some essays that the reader could really sink teeth into or some pieces on her spiritual journey, I would have been more engaged and interested.  Unfortunately, I was not and now I don't know if I'll ever seek out another of her poetry collections or just stick with her essays, her fiction, her nonfiction.  No doubt there are those who adore anything and everything she publishes.  Clearly, I am not one of those.

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