An Inheritance of Stone (Aliteration Ink), by Leslie J. Anderson

According to the author, this collection of poetry was almost named Ponies and Rocketships and, truth be told, that would have been a significantly more honest title. It lays out the twin obsessions with horses and space that most of the poems held herein deal with. And the Walt Whitman quote makes more sense in that context.

Now, if you did not close out this window already (chased away by the mention of poetry, ponies, space and Walt Whitman as much of the populace would be) there is a chance you may enjoy yourself with this book. Feel free to pat yourself on the back as you continue.

There are some really fucking good poems here. One, “Ponies and Rocketships”, actually made me cry while contemplating the sense of wonder and disappointment and horror and hope at the heart of watching all those bright, expansive childhood dreams of entitlement die under the rampaging foot of reality. Or “New Year’s Resolution”, which manages to encapsulate that same sense of grandiose expectation in the face of mundane truth in the space of ten lines. Or “Diamonds”, a chilling, sparse metaphor for the objectification of beauty. Goddam “Eulogy for Spirit and Opportunity!” 

Poems that carry the punch of personal experience, with just the right amount of metaphor to add depth and enough trust in the reader to believe they can understand without being spoonfed while going for the gonads as much as the funnybone. Poems that clearly could not have come from anyone else but this specific woman at this specific time in her life. That’s the shit I kill for in poetry.

However, the good ones are weighed down with a bit too much preachiness. A bit too much blunt force. Far too many that smack of the type of poetry you write to impress your college professors. Staid. Overwordy. Stiff. Lifeless. Lacking in personality. Bleh. Stuff like “America,” “The Nature of Gunfight” or “Stone” that only feed us what we’ve been told a thousand times over and without half the liveliness. Or the last stanza of “The Night Blooming Cereus”, that does everything except directly call the reader too stupid to understand everything that the rest of the poem was saying. And that isn’t getting into what I strongly suspect is a moment confusing the Vietnam War Memorial in DC  with the Korean War Veterans Memorial (which does not have names, only statistics, listed).

Leslie doesn’t just have promise, she’s got chutzpah and power and grace. And when it shines, it can blot out the sunset and the hero on horseback riding into it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t shine nearly as much as I wanted it to here and there’s an awful lot of dust choking out the light.