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I’ve known Willie James King for over a decade. Our initial meeting was probably predestined, as most of our conversations have centered around his commitment as a devoted, dedicated and seasoned poet. King holds an MFA in creative writing, and other degrees in English and Education. He’s widely published and his work touches an international audience across three continents. His passion for poetry and the healing nature as power of his craft are the heart strings that propelled our lasting friendship and bond. I’m very familiar with his work, having read most, if not all of his published work. His infectious writing is easy for one to ignite a love affair with his tenacity, eloquence, poignancy and the clarity and honesty with which King writes. For his heart and soul so intertwined, are deeply invested in his work, and that peace and harmony are no different from the person himself in real life. Though his poems appear simple, but they conduct high voltage electricity through them. In the poem: Without Weeping, this reality is evidently evocative and touchy. (Photo: Willie James King, author/poet)
Can compassion be the word for a cow
Who seems to love the slimy afterbirth
She is licking from her calf’s weak body?
Perhaps it could be. I steady the plow;
It sinks deeper as I study the worth
Of a child comforted in its crying
Not shoved in a microwave nor brown bag
The marriage between his poetry and his innate concern for humanity is a sacred mission and vision he never strays away from, even at the expense of his self interest, if not survival. Not long ago, King experienced serious health issues and challenges in his career at the same time. But he refused to abandon writing, even when he practically hit rock bottom, and seemingly stalled at the point of no return. When King had nothing left but God, he came to the stark realization that God is enough. It was during that tenuous crisis that he wrote some of his strongest poems which were accepted for publication in various outlets. He had blocked his mind to worldly possessions that may hinder his precious soul or assault his vulnerable mind. Today, he could freely share some of his experiences in poems, how his breakthrough and miracle took place. Poetry saved his life and it could save mine and others too. For Willie is poetry and poetry is Willie.
Seasoned and powerful writing does not come from a vacuous space of comfort and convenience. His recent pilgrimage of life would eventually transform him after going through Red Sea that changed his life and helped in elevating his poetry. Autumn’s Only Blood is his fourth collection of poems, the others include, The House in The Heart, Wooden Windows, and At the Forest Edge. Born and raised in the south of the ignoble confederacy that was etched with discrimination, in the stormy theater of the old southern state of Alabama, carved the Mecca of the Civil Rights Movement, where the claws of racism were enshrined. The deep south’s legal system favored bigotry, as the seeds of injustice were generously sown and would freely germinate, bloom and blossom unabated. It’s amid this enigma and melancholy that King writes his eye popping poems, that often arrest the imagination and appetite of the adventurous and meticulous reader, with jaws wide open in shock and awe. King’s global perspective shows in the poem: Dear Roland, based on events in Sierra Leone, a country most Americans know little about except the violence in the movie ‘Blood Diamonds.’ But King is not one of them for he’s a voracious reader. So much hatred, all epitomizing hell……
One guy is pointing to the dime-sized bullet
Hole in his head, the other is showing the world
The blood-soaked wound in his sternum,
And he does not yet seem done with war
I surmised. Some are using the name Obama,
Which to me, is self-effacement that hinges on bad indulgence.
His disturbing and sometimes inhuman experiences and narratives are mildly sugar coated but soaked in vinegar. His writing though brutally honest is not offensive, using his ability and the toolbox of language and gift with words to jump start our reasoning, and remind us of the ugly past that’s clearly at odds with the present. And we could drink from the word smith’s reservoir of rich diction. Words are bullets that have the power as resource to heal or wound, once they hit their targets. Willie dispenses poetic justice with caution, wit and finesse, to help heal our ailing world, in dire need of rescue, rather than opening up old wounds of the ugly past.
I strongly believe that King’s poetry collection deserves global appreciation and recognition. For the shine from his blaze could illuminate the world with his well written poems. I’m a witness and convert who has watched him humbly and graciously attain such amiable standard of artistry. After reading his work one would never be the same again. For King speaks the bare knuckled truth though he’s relatively in obscurity, and waiting to receive the long deserved nod. I would recommend his book to the general reader, not just poetry lovers. For his poems read like short stories reflecting our global neighborhood of concern.
Title: Autumn’s Only Blood
Author: Willie James King
Publisher: Tebot Bach
Publication date: pending
Number of pages: 60
Review by Roland Bankole Marke © 2012
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