From insanely elegant odes to mundane objects to incredibly descriptive reflections about life and acceptance, Light Spun has it all, and has quickly become a collection I return to read again and again. The book takes place over a three-year period and carries the reader through the poet’s experiences with xir mental health, body image, love, and xir gender and identity as a Black American. The verse details the many highs and lows of life in an extravagantly classic yet nuanced way. Anyone can tell that Kwame Sound Daniels, the brilliant poet responsible for the masterpiece, has put a great deal of time, thought, and soul into every piece within the collection.
A poem titled “Cold parts” opens the collection, and is one of my personal favorites. Daniels writes, “Tight, like a muscle strained, like a knot far / beyond undoing. Tendons taut, snapping. / Achilles’ weakness speaks to me, tells me / all the ways in which I have failed. And yet, / I wake and breathe. I live in quiet strength.”
Daniels brings such beauty to verse and encapsulates readers, immersing them in the poet’s emotions as they travel with xem on a journey to xir own strength. There are many moments in this collection that are subtle and simultaneously jarring. Some failures and thoughts haunt us in moments of both peace and pain. There are moments of agony that stick with us but at the end of the day, we are still breathing, and that is our strength.
Following “Cold parts,” the collection is divided into several sub-sections, serving as chapters in both Daniels’ life and the book. The first is “Conversations,” a collection of conversations between the poet, friends, objects, and moments that exist in brilliant free verse in these pages. The poet personifies things, even emotions, giving them dialogue to tell a story of a personal journey. “Lineage,” to me, feels like a conversation between friends about past and acceptance. Daniels writes, “...I am finding new ways to be. I am / a million souls. I house spirits and visions in my bones.”
The chapters each have their own topics—some are filled with love, and some with pain. Trauma and history are displayed through stories and odes. Although there are moments, like the poet’s childhood reflections, that are deeply personal, Light Spun has themes that will surely resonate with a variety of readers.
My favorite thing about this entire collection is the small details included. Upon my first read, I did not notice the poet’s attention to capitalization and punctuation because xir subtle choices didn’t obstruct clarity. There are pieces left without traditional capitalization and some include unique punctuation. Some poems contain no punctuation at all. In my interpretation, the nuanced technique is stylistic and symbolic of the poet’s experience. For example, in an ode “To Home,” Daniels ends the poem with a short stanza: “inside I am safe / I am cold / I lie in bed” which lacks traditional punctuation and capitalization. Some of the poems, like “To Home” may represent moments of closure, which others may speak to the open, continuing moments of ambiguity.
There is also attention to detail in terms of space. In the fourth section, titled “Sojourn,” Daniels uses visual space on a page to emphasize time. The chapter takes note of a week of xir life after a loss or abandonment. The first four pages of the section have verse, and the fifth and sixth have no words at all. The poem titled “Day Seven” has one word: “home.” Even without verse, the chapter is filled with emotion―the absence says everything.
Every selection in the book holds so much emotion and power that can make every reader gasp, cry, and smile. Light Spun is a collection that every poetry-lover should read, because it is a deep, emotionally immersive experience that leaves the reader with insight about life and living.
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