In Writing this review I have sought to reflect first impressions, a consideration of the whole upon reflection on further reading and to highlight strong phrasing which sums up the main themes in the collection. I think the Poet Tony Kwame Ansah Jr in his own ‘about’ section tells us something of who he is, the poetry tells us so much more of our own lives and not just his own.
About the Author
The author (Tony Kwame Ansah Jr) is a son, a husband, an uncle and a father with aspirations to improve current circumstance. Tony was born and raised in Rhode Island, USA, however, his ancestry is from Ghana. Also, he is a student of World History and Politics and a freelance writer of poetry. Lastly, Tony is a human interested in social service and public administration, which
The Collection is a combination of half-finished thoughts and themes and completed and accomplished poetry. The first read-through for this reader identified three stand out pieces that represent fairly the thoughts and feelings and observations in the Other titles,
Employ Pressure, Straight as they come & Ghanian American articulates the full range of complex problems, hope sadness and frustration tackled by the collection as a whole.
On the first read through the poem Married and lonely so strongly articulated a female voice that I wondered if the poet was a Woman. On the first read-through, I was left with a strong impression of the poets complex understanding of the Subject, Object dichotomy with a full understanding and empathy for the Otherness of the human condition. I was keen to re-read and reflect in more depth.
In the poem, I am Sick of surviving like this I was particularly struck by this phrase.
I’m sick of surviving and living like this.
”An at will employee just another nobody in the system
An at will employee just another supposed victim.”
For the second reading, I decided to concentrate on the, what for me were, the, more complete poems and having digested the Fragmented ideas in the Explanatory note type verses and plain verse texts. With this context, I heard the poets voice and feelings in the more polished or self-contained poems.
I felt that the poet could pay some attention to the ordering of the poems, with the explanatory and motivational pieces perhaps being first to give a context for the self-contained pieces. As a whole the themes come out of, Separation, Economic alienation, striving for recognition and economic independence, Breaking out of constraining narratives and the pain and frustrations of parting and remaining in communication.
The themes of race, otherness and duality of Identities are very ably and poignantly expressed in Ghanian American, so much so that I felt Sujatta Bhatts A different History would be a fitting introduction to the themes embedded in This work.
Other themes react and object to the Atomisation of individuals and tackle the questions of Ego´s and Self, I particularly like the phrase ‘Quarrelsome egos can’t go beyond past traumas” in Married and Lonely.
The Poet tells us that Spoken word poetry and the feature Film Slam reconciled him to Words as an ally rather than mistrusted foe. Spoken Word when on the page can be assisted by attention to stanza and phrasing. Line editing to give the emphasis of the Spoken word poet to delineate Pace, Rhythm and Flow can be assisted by layout.
Strategic Tactics of Survival.
Step out of the matrix, Enter into phoenix.
At the end of the tunnel lies true autonomy,
to build a genuine economy full of wealth
and, value beyond subordination.
Which is part of the indoctrination?
force-fed without knowledge of the recipient,
who is brainwashed to drink watered-down education
and information, in order to become ignorant.
Controlled by strategic tactics of recessive survivalist…
New Years Detox could benefit from a similar treatment placing paragraphs into sentences and stanzas to help the Reader with the intended rhythm pace and emphasis. This, of course, is relevant only where spoken word poets wish to be read as well as heard.
This idea is ably summarised in the poets’ own words.
Go With Flow.
´´I’m still standing above the grammar
Because poetry allows for stanzas
And double entendre”
I like this poem again as an explanation of the poets’ gratitude to the outlet poetry and words give to what is felt and thought and demands outward expression.
The ordering of the collection for me meant that the 4 introductory poems gave only a small hint of the depth of thought and feeling to come. This is first delivered with the Strategic Tactics of Survival poem.
”There’s more to the puzzle than your eyes can and don’t see
Everybody has a story better than reality tv
This is that person, place, or thing we can all feel
Because it’s that person, place, or thing we can call real”.
Straight as they come is a primer for the deeper meanings and tensions the poet experiences in otherness in a multiplex culture full of contradictions. In his own words.
´´playing bailey with words
To serve to the people like they were hors d’oeuvres”.
Again the spoken word rhythm being very strong allows the reader used to spoken word to read yet again the intended emphasis would be assisted in the second half of the poem with either punctuation or phrasing into lines. Straight as they come is difficult to read, I would love though to hear the poet perform the piece.
In self defense. Delivers a body blow challenging complacent assumptions about identity and assumed existence in modern societal pigeon holes.
”I stand above and oversee above surface and see through 2 faces of the bipolar mask costumes
life isn’t a video game nor is it Halloween
unless you’re a living and breathing zombie
Lucifer worshipper not me”
Manmade Hypothesis, continues the strong and powerful feel that Critical Thinking and questioning narratives can liberate personal consciousness
”I was force fed and spoon fed information and so called education that contained very little
knowledge or wisdom.”
Personal motivation, In the ordering of the work this poem for my own tastes would come after page 1.
Subject/ Object, I, me, they, them, us , those.? Are all apparent here but of course, one borrows meaning from the rest of the collection which presents a challenge for the shorter poems which seem fragmented when read in isolation.
Married and Lonely.
I really like the phrase and context for which it is deployed in this poem.
´´”Quarrelsome egos can’t go beyond past traumas”.
”Although it takes 2 to tangle, it also takes 2 to dismantle and switch from compatible to
incompatible because love and affection is not tangible.”
Stanzas? Would aid the reading of this poem
”What a complex identity to have as a member of civil society.
How can one person be all of the above?
One color or race and two nationalities altogether.
All of these social constructs place people out of the proper place they belong in.”
Similar to Manmade Hypothesis problematical stereo types?
”Pour your soul into the globe and see an ocean full of blood overflowing nonstop to the rhythm
of departed kings and queens.
Human beings like you and I are biological ancestors; our brothers and sisters, mothers and
fathers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles of the most high.
Third eye intelligent, militant, heaven sent with good intent.
Positive energy inside nothing to hide but pride and joy for this baby boy who grew up to be a
man with wisdom, knowledge to understand the difference between today versus yesterday
versions of history.
The good, the bad, the ugly deeds did to everybody’s ancestry including my dead and living
Dial and log it in on different frequencies
”One biological father
Versus a digital father
Who dialogues long distance
Just to get another chance.’
The themes and some of the phrasing is very pleasing to my own tastes in poetical expression. The collection as a whole does need some further thought as to ordering and also as to layout to give the poets intended flow and rhythm schemes to the reader that wishes to read in the poets own voice.
I have enjoyed reading the collection and would certainly look forward to reading more of Tony´s poetry I would also definitely go to a reading to hear with my own ears the voice which has come through to me from the written page.
”So am I wrong to say that I’m a human being before anything else and didn’t know any of these
categories or classifications until I was exposed to the world we lived in yesterday and live in
today and must associate and attach myself with an identity or group.
Otherwise, I’ll look like an outcast living in a manmade cast system that’s before and beyond
Reviewer: Kwame Ansah Jr Review: First of all, I have a short attention span but was able to read through these poems with ease. I must say that I do have a bias to this type of poetry because I’m very much in tune with politics and economics. Thus, the social, political, and economic commentary made throughout this book touched close to home and struck a cord with me. Furthermore, I acknowledged and enjoyed the brief descriptions to each poem as well as the quotes included throughout the book. Job well done Roger Lewis!
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