When I studied Literature in college I focused on two areas: Creative Writing and Humanities. Within those divisions I narrowed it down to Poetry and African American History. So I must say that I was quite excited to review Slave Chronicles by Kirk Yancey.
Slave Chronicles is a collection of poems that express the struggles, emotionally and physically, that slaves faced in coming to America and surviving (or, most often, not surviving) the plantations. It begins with a lengthy dedication by Kirk Yancey to the African Americans who have inspired him throughout his life. Americans such as Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, Jackie Robinson, Wilt Chamberlain, Langston Hughes, and George Washington Carver, just to name a few of the more well known figures mentioned by Yancey. The dedication itself is worth a good read just to refresh yourself with these great Americans and, perhaps, to meet a few others you may not know as well.
Slave Chronicles explores the experiences of slaves bound for America in a loose chronology of being stolen upon ships, surviving the harsh voyage conditions to America, the humility, the inhumane treatment, workdays, horrid living conditions and desires and attempts to escape.
As poetry goes, one must read and re-read a piece to glean all of the emotion and references packed into the measured words, however, there were times in reading Yancey’s Slave Chronicles when the pieces were just not fitting together for me. Though the subject, in and of itself, has always grabbed my attention, and there were many poems within Slave Chronicles that brought to life the horrors these humans experienced, Yancey’s own un-honed crafting and grammar made it too difficult for me to follow through some of his narratives. This was distracting and frustrating and did take away from the power of the subject, which is truly unfortunate. This lack of knowledge of the skill of writing was also evident in the dedication and the back cover summary. One of the first rules of writing is to learn all of the rules… and then to creatively go about breaking them. To skip to writing without this support knowledge causes one’s work to fall a little flat. Writers such as Yancey would do well to find a mentor and to work on their craft until it can match the substance of their subject. I do give Yancey credit for putting it out there, but a bit more work on the technical side of writing poetry will much improve this collection.
Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Kirk Yancey. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.