Review by: Mut Asheru
Author: Charlie Braxton
Publisher: Jawara Press
Charlie Braxton’s book of poetry CINDERS REKINDLED has delivered on its ability to rekindle fires in me that I thought long extinguished. The introduction by Jerry W. Ward, Jr is in itself a work of art. There are powerful lines and clever alliterations a-plenty in his latest collection of insightful and potently on target poems, but the main takeaway from this work is its critical look at the promised land and just where we are on our journey towards it.
While CINDERS REKINDLED calls to mind a state of awakening, it also implies a state of death, expiration or cooling off that must happen before things can enter into said state. What Braxton does in this 2 part collection is aptly paint a picture of day to day elements of life in America (for Blacks or otherwise) that contribute to the so-called cooling off of embers.
Through Braxton’s oftentimes biting and bittersweet wordplay you will be ambushed by lines like ‘…a seedy snake/ & a bishop gone wrong / leaning in the ever lustful arms / of young nubile boys / whose tithes were taken / along with their innocence / praying for pie in the sky / while birds and rich folks flew right on by.’ in Greed.
However, the rekindling comes from the passionate discourse in poems like Orgy of Sin where Braxton pens, “…no poetry pining for the glory days / of a free market economic beast / only funeral dirges and / battle hymns hummed / at the very top / of our defiant lungs echoing / poor though we may be / we will not tuck tail / & haul ass / just so the gluttonous elite / can feel secure in their cause / no no no / our suffering / must be loud / it must be strong.”
Like these excerpts, Braxton’s poems tend toward plain speech. The rhythms are conversational tones turned into verse of sometimes startling and always jarring subject matter. Whether it be Black Logos or my personal favorite Never Let the Devil Call the Tunes, Braxton clearly draws parallels between then and now like in Never Let the Devil Call the Tunes where he writes, “…cheaper than black life in Mississippi in the 1920s / 1930s / 1940s / 1950s / 1960s / 1970s / 1980s / 1990s / shit right now nigga!”
With this heavy-even-handedness, he confronts us with the stark realities of what it means to physically, mentally and spiritually deal with being…and specifically being Black in America on a daily basis. I suspect it’s hard everywhere, but that’s another book. Pick up a copy; read it and then let me know. We can talk about it.
A copy of CINDERS REKINDLED can be purchased Lulu.com: http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/charlie-r-braxton/cinders-rekindled/paperback/product-20299325.html