Concerning Craft: Alan King and His Sources of Inspiration

The “Concerning Craft” series introduces Little Patuxent Review contributors, showcases their work and shares some insights on writing well. Our latest comes from Alan King, who writes that his “creative process” is a “meditative one.” “Poetry still asks me to prove myself, to take it to the next level,” King reflects, and he makes that push in part by “pull[ing] inspiration from two contemporary poets,” Patricia Smith and Tim Seibles, a.k.a. (to King) as Rogue and Iceman.

King’s poem “The Journey” appeared in LPR’s Winter 2018 issue. (In the video above, King reads his poem at LPR’s issue launch.) He is the author of Point Blank (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and Drift (Willow Books, 2012). A Caribbean American whose parents emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to the U.S. in the 1970s, he is a husband, father, and communications professional. He is a Cave Canem graduate fellow and holds an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. King is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

Two weeks ago, I read at the Oliver’s Carriage House in Columbia, Maryland. I was among the contributors helping to launch Little Patuxent Review‘s Winter Issue.

It’s exciting when the list of contributors for a publication I’m in is a reunion of sorts. The reading was no different.

I enjoyed rocking the mic podium with the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. I also got my first face-to-face meeting with folks, who until that moment, I only knew on Twitter and Facebook.

After the reading, thumbing through the pages, I smiled at the Editor’s Note:

“I’d even go so far as to say that poems, stories, and essays” – LPR’s Editor Steven Leyva writes – “when paired with the striking iconography of various visual arts, form an aegis against ‘a boogeyman’s appetite for innocent things.’”

The “boogeyman” quote is a nod to my poem, “The Journey,” which appears in LPR’s latest issue.

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Alan King’s Poetry: Preview from Winter 2018 Issue

We launch the Winter 2018 issue of LPR on January 21st, but thought you might like to see some of the excellent work we’ve selected, so we’re featuring a local poet with a clear and unmistakeable voice. Alan King’s work has previously been published in LPR, and we are happy to welcome him back for the Winter 2018 Issue. Enjoy, and hope to see you at the launch!

headshot, Alan King

Alan King

The Journey

Each day is a little life: every waking and rising
a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth,
every going to rest and sleep a little death.
-Arthur Schopenhauer

The diner’s nearly empty
when you both arrive – except for
the six or so other patrons and
a waitress who calls everyone “Hun”.

The fluorescent lights lick the Formica bar
and chrome stools, the black and purple beaten
booths and a straw-headed boy staring at you
over cold chicken strips, the ketchup
a sticky scab on his plate.

He reminds you of the little girls
the night before, running through a restaurant
in Berlin, Maryland, where you stayed at a hotel
known to be an antique –

its hardwood bathroom floors, the claw-
footed tub with its wraparound shower curtain,
the portraits of hoop-skirted women
twirling parasols, the prairie-style
wooden armoire closet.

The two girls, laughing as they ran through
the Drummers Cafe, stopped at the sight
of you and your wife, the only black people
in the restaurant that night.

When you remember the patrons’ darting
eyes at your wife’s dreadlocks, the way
the hostess smiled past you to the white family
she sat, while you waited,

when all around you the consensus
seemed to echo the nursery rhyme:
How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon,

you remember the loneliness
of feeling like the only one fighting for sanity
when the world makes you someone else.

You watch your wife rub her full moon
and talk to your daughter 27 weeks alive
inside her, knowing that each day is a little life,
each step towards progress a little birth,

even if the journey is full of off ramps,
like the one that brought you both
to a bright diner on your way home,

to the slurping straw that says
the blond boy’s savoring what’s left
of his chocolate shake before he sacks out
on the plush seat – his mom flipping through
a magazine, picking at her fries.

You watch him wrapped in his blue blanket –
as if sleep weren’t a little death; as if the world
weren’t a dark dream, haunted by a boogeyman’s
appetite for innocent things.

BIO: Alan King is a Caribbean American, whose parents emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to the U.S. in the 1970s. He’s a husband, father, and communications professional who blogs about art and social issues at alanwking.com. He’s the author of POINT BLANK (Silver Birch Press, 2016) and DRIFT (Willow Books, 2012). A Cave Canem graduate fellow, he holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program.