Review by g emil reutter
There is a richness in American poetry that traces its roots from Levine to Sandburg to Whitman. Poetry rooted in the American spirit, the working class, the knowing of who we are and where we come from. In that chain that links poets to the barbaric yawp of Whitman we can add Afaa Michael Weaver as the next link. Weaver writes poetry that is spiritual yet rooted in realism, the passion for life that is missing from many modern poets who embrace disconnect. From the first stanza of Preachers:
Worked in the steel mills, black men
from Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia
studying the way God whispered
in the hot air of the coke oven, how
the saints waved the smoke rising
up over Baltimore harbor, a pastiche
announcing the hope of generations.
…God whispered/in the hot air of the coke oven
This is not an imagined image, Weaver lived it, saw it, wrote it down. God whispering to the men and women who tended the coke ovens, popped lids, saw the vapers felt the intense heat. These are the people who where worn down by the heat of the oven, soaked with sweat and could hear God whispering.
In part two of The Ice House, 1969 Weaver writes:
…If there is power in want,
I want to know it and be free of doubt
to be a man who walks on what earth is,
a solidity of words stolen from dreams
cooked up in the minds of star systems
we know only because we believe
the stories pasted on night skies.
Here Weaver the spiritual poet once again joins in the realism of working in the ice house penning these beautiful images. Weaver’s unique ability to combine the spiritual with realism comes into focus time and again in such poems as Repack Room, A Nation of Hands, Interiors, a Miners Home. And then there is this stark realism from the poem The Winepress:.
Men and women come new, fresh,
step into one end of the mills dancing,
come out the other hobbling, coughing
up the accumulated frustrations
of paychecks eating away at paychecks,
loan sharks promising to realize dreams.
Steel mills chew up workers,
Put the young flesh in their jaws,
Teeth shining with ads for things.
In Ode To The Righteous Union he begins in a Bejjing Starbucks, through the City of Cold Love, the Forbidden City to decaying tobacco barns to Virginia:
I knew as a boy in Virginia, following
my father’s steps walking long rows,
him following the steps of his father,
each step backward until the first plow
was cast in some old testaments of dirt,
what earth is when it gives life to us, lets
us grow hands that make art from work.
And so it is that Spirit Boxing by Afaa Michael Weaver is art from the work of life, of knowing the spiritual rooted in realism that warms and warns with each turn of the page.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Boxing-Poetry-Michael-Weaver/dp/0822964589
.g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter