Friday, October 31, 2014

Paul David Adkins’ Stick Up

The best books raise questions in us, which Stick-Up definitely did for me. This chapbook is one of the most creative I have read so far this year. It reminds me of the book Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson because I see an entire novel in this tiny chapbook; it was that engrossing for me.

Though meter was not as present in Stick-Up as in Autobiography of Red, there were moments of rhythm and rhyme that I appreciated:

She snatched a coin
from the “Take-a-Penny”tray,
scratched the lotto tickets
like a Chihuahua at the door,

tossed the losers to the floor
one by one.

The rhythm of this book is not the only thing that is impressive about it. While reading it, I am left wondering a variety of things. One question leads to the next like a Russian doll of inquiries: Firstly, much like in Autobiography of Red, I wonder why Adkins chose to write this book in poetry and not prose? What about the story presented here lends itself to poetry? And why is poetry the best mechanism to tell this story?

Furthermore, the minimalistic style of this book led to more questions, such as: Do we need similes and metaphors in poems to make them effective? And what are our preconceived notions of poetry? (Certainly, my being drawn to metaphor may be a personal bias, because my poems are filled to the brim with them). I do want to note that when metaphors are used in this book, they are precise. Lines like these really stood out:

Their radios squawked
like parrots, their engines purred
like lions sated by a kill.


H moved but kept
his face to her, his palms
still raised like stop signs

I was also dawn to the nods towards normalcy in the face of tragedy. Parts of this book remind me of Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara, one of my favorite poetry collections. We so often notice the mundane while in shock or in the midst of emergency. This is something I believe many of us can relate to, and I know I certainly can.

The storyline of the book also offers many lines of inquiry worth pursuing. Some questions I have are: What is the reason for the crime? Why is the author telling this story in particular? What about the story makes it so compelling? What are the (untold) motivations of the robber? Are we told this in a discreet way that we must pay attention to?

On the same note, I liked how the story was transparent; we were allowed to see the internal workings of a (so-called) criminal. I also thought the dialog that Adkins included added a lot to the book. The multiple points of view were effective, and the perspective of “she” vs. “the robber” pulled me in.

I am so appreciative of Paul David Adkins and his book fr raising such profound, important questions for me. The final questions I will leave us are: What can writing poetry teach us about writing prose? How can we use story arcs to make our poetry even better?

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