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  • By A. Jarrell Hayes
    Jan 29, 2010
    We all have heard the saying “Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.” After reading poet Crystal Belle’s debut collection Woman on Fire the saying might change into “Hell hath no fury like that of a woman on fire.” The collection starts off with the reflective, almost tranquil, haiku “Double Consciousness” – but it acts as the calm before the storm which is the rest of the poems in the collection. What’s Crystal on fire about? In the collection Belle takes aim at urbanization, racism, sexism, domestic violence and senseless violence. The Brooklyn-born poet tackles these issues in a variety of ways. There are fast-paced rhyme-heavy poems, like “Army of Salvation”, “Outside the Box”, “My National Anthem”, and “Assimilation in the First Degree” where Belle displays the gift of wordplay, creating a street voice full of intelligence. There are poems heavy with sounds of urban and domestic life, like “Where It Hurt”, a poem about domestic abuse one can actually hear even while... More > reading silently to oneself. The poems are heavily infused with music, song, and hip-hop culture, most notably in the poems “Rap and Roll”, “Slowly, Surely”, “Hip-Hop,” and “A Dream Deferred” – an ode to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Belle’s poems are also heavy in tongue-twisting alliteration, especially in the poem “Realistic Equations.” But where Crystal really exceeds and displays a profound gift for story-telling are in the prose poems in the collection, poems like “Just Another Wallace”, a story of the deadly game played by drug dealers and cops in the hood that could’ve been used as a script in the TV show “The Wire.” In “39 Acres under the Sun” the poem’s speaker takes the reader on a journey through slavery from inside the mind of an African woman. “Iron Uprising” is where Belle explores the five senses and compares a subway ride to the struggle for freedom, creating some of the most vivid and unique imagery in the collection. The poems aren’t all a fire of anger. Poems like “Life as a Tourist” and “Sunday Kind of Love” are reminders that fire can burn for passion and love. Also there’s “A Letter to a Woman from a Man Who is Bleeding” – a poem where the speaker is burning with frustration and fear. The poems are beautifully crafted but lack movement away from urban landscapes. Images of blackness, such as nappy hair, big lips and hips, feel overused at times, causing some of the poems to sound too similar and undifferentiated. However, there is enough diversity in form and style to make Woman on Fire a solid debut collection. (via< Less
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Product Details

First Edition
Crystal Belle
October 17, 2009
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
0.34 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
Product ID
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