Dye Takes Risks With Her Poetry
Squint past the cover of voyeuristic trees and then trip into the deep green pages of Aleah Dye’s 2019 publication If I Just Look Hard Enough. Her cover of near camouflage and dark green paper are interesting choices; they twist as lively vines around her readers’ ankles and pull them down into an armchair before flicking the collection open.
Her launching piece “Synopses, Storyboards” is a coffee chugging, wild eyed prose poem. The dialogue lets the speaker, a zigzagging television writer, manifest so completely in the eardrum as they mock the very audience they write a show for. “A dagger, folks. It’s / just a dagger, but if we call it a bodkin, won’t they / just love it?” The speaker jeers. The only downside of beginning the collection with this slap in the face kind of a poem is that the following piece, “Dehydrated,” feels as dehydrated as Coleridge’s ancient mariner. The poet seems to have missed injecting her vibrant, erratic imagination into this particular piece.
There is no reason to worry though as Dye recovers beautifully from this small misstep. While it is true that her skill as a poet could use some polish, a bit more finesse, there is not a dull moment to be found in the rest of her spirited assortment of poems. “How do you stop / your aching teeth, / clenched to dust, / wading in grief?” The speaker inquires in “Falling Out of Love” as the residue of destroyed canines and molars shimmer like perverted treasure around the readers’ feet. In “Cling,” the speaker is all of a sudden sitting next the readers, “… looking out / a window, seeing the last / leaf clinging / to a long-dead tree.” These verses capture the essence of what makes Dye’s work so attractive. There is an immediacy to her poetry which allows them to be projected into the readers’ worlds.
One of the best poems in If I Just Look Hard Enough is “I Cry Too Much”. The tone of the piece is different from most contemporary poetry. The readers’ eyes will roll as the speaker’s seem to do when they read, “I act like my anxiety will go away /
if I try hard enough.” It is not a poem filled with blind hope, creeping anger, or preposterous mourning. The poem itself is actually a bit irritated. A tad sarcastic even. The poem is annoyed with being instructed to simply get over something which delves deep into the mind, sometimes becoming impossible to flush out. In this regard, it is wholly refreshing.
Aleah Dye’s collection is, in a word, tenacious. Her work is interesting with its lack of platitudes and sanguine verses. She takes risks with the formatting (which could be enhanced by making the text white to improve visibility for the readers), with her style and isn’t afraid to try out new voices. Dye is a contemporary poet, there is no doubt of that, and her boldness will only help her skill grow with each new poem she carves out. The world of poetry is always changing and Dye is one of those young poets striking out to discover what new treasures the craft of poetry has yet to offer.
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