Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Review: 'Spring's Fall' by Harambee Grey-Sun

I requested this book from Netgalley because I was quite intrigued by its premise. I wondered how Harambee Grey-Sun would combine different poems together to create the story of a man. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that Spring's Fall wasn't for me.
This book is a freak. Possibly a mistake from its very conception. A long story comprised of forty-six short-shorts, all of them in verse. A concept album in musical words. A postmodern musical on the page. This is an experiment. A frankenpoem. A HyperVerse. A collection very much out of step with most of its contemporaries.
Spring’s Fall is the story of one young man crossing the burning bridge between innocence and experience, a coming-of-age epic about fitting in and falling out, finding oneself and losing oneself, and discovering the meanings of life, love, and identity. Readers will follow Sevin as he ambles around his hometown one last time, reminiscing about the moments that made him into the young man he’s become. He reimagines, not only his own thoughts and feelings, actions and words, but also those of the girls and women who made a significant mark on him. 
Rejecting the “rules” of what contemporary poetry should be, Spring’s Fall is unapologetically unfashionable, written in the spirit of the complex-but-imperfect music many of us hear and sing to our insecure selves in adolescence. 
Not an easy read, but it’s not nearly as challenging as growing up.
I personally always preferred old-school poetry with strict rules regarding rhyme and alliteration, but Maya Angelou and Emily Dickinson showed me the beautiful things that can be done when one bends the rules or maybe even completely ignores them. In the synopsis, they state that Spring's Fall doesn't follow 'the "rules" of what contemporary poetry should be', even rejects these rules. I found that Spring's Fall is relatively in line with contemporary poetry rules and is, in that sense, nothing extraordinary the way the synopsis presents it to be. This book of poetry suffers, I think, from the wrong marketing, In the three paragraphs above, Spring's Fall is praised into the sky as the deepest, strangest, absurdest and yet realest book of poetry you could ever discover. Perfect for those among us who feel like they are the only one who feels this way and will never be understood. However, many of the things Grey-Sun describes are quite relatable and as a consequence you're unfairly left wondering what the big deal is. Had the synopsis been different I probably wouldn't have been as dissatisfied with Spring's Fall as I now am.

There is something about the initial poems which is quite entrancing. Without wanting to seem base, it is quite comparable to how reality tv etc. can draw you in and refuse to let you go. As the reader you want to know more, see more, etc. And because the synopsis promises such revelations as have never been read before you're constantly left wanting more. The poem also grows quite self-indulgent, which the introduction also makes plenty clear. To often I find poetry to be very forced. It feels as if the poet sits down and wonders how he can make a normal experience as abstract and lofty as possible in order to sound deep and intelligent. The reason I love Dickinson and Angelou is because they keep their poetry so close to home, close to the heart. Grey-Sun seems to want to fly without having the wings to do it and it's a real shame because there are parts of Spring's Fall which over some real promise. A down-point was the author's prose "explanations" of his poetry. Whether he was trying to be helpful or thought that he needed to explain his poetry to us, I don't know. But poetry should be able to speak for itself.

Personally, I also found the idea of him re-imagining the thoughts of the women he dates very off-putting. Although I'm not offended by any of it, the attitude of seeing one-self as the centre of everyone's universe is just not quite palatable to me. Especially because the main character doesn't necessarily come across as the best kind of guy. However, I don't want to be too negative about Spring's Fall. There are some really beautiful passages which really lift the poems up. It shows that Grey-Sun feels quite deeply about his story and that is always a good thing. If Spring's Fall had been subject to less up-front praise, I might have been less disappointed.

I give this collection...

2 Universes!

Spring's Fall's poetry is modernist and might fit well as a YA read. Grey-Sun's style is at times very abstract and this means that quite often you tend to lose empathy. The poetry doesn't completely sweep you away, however it can make for a nice read. Just ignore the raving praise the synopsis bestows on it, because it will only create expectations which aren't met.

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