A Poem Traveled Down My Arm
Reviewed by: Carrie Byrd
Review posted: 4/16/04
This is the book for those of you who would like to read a book of poetry without actually having to read any poetry. If I was reviewing a book by jut about anyone but Alice Walker, that would be a bad thing. A Poem Traveled Down My Arm is mostly short phrases strung together. Itís coherent, so it already outstrips a number of poets.
Walker has a gift for using words sparsely but effectively, as evidenced in her novels and essays. The economy of her words here, then, is pleasant and melodic. Some of the poems are only a word or two long. None are much more than a page, but they all flow together seamlessly. Rather than being a book of poems, it reads almost like one, long poem. The words run over each other, twisting and evolving until the first poem becomes the fifth poem and youíre not even close to where you started out, but you know exactly how you got where you are. And that is what saves this book.
Itís cutesy. Itís inspirational. You can imagine finding it shelved next to Dr. Phil instead of Wallace Stevens, but thatís ok. You donít mind. In fact, itís definitely an improvement over the inspirational tripe most self-help books are selling. You feel inexplicably encouraged even when reading lines that make you wonder exactly who is making Alice Walker so depressed. Itís a book that seems to renew and redeem itself. Itís not perfect. Itís disjointed and a little cutesy at moments, and the illustrations, done by Walker, look like she could have benefited from the assistance of a six year old. Itís meant to add to the simplicity of the book, but I think instead it merely detracts from the complicated tangle of words the book really is.
Is this poetry? I donít know. I guess. Itís supposed to be. Itís notÖnot poetry. It just is.