Elevate Difference

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: New Poems

All too often, words are put together solely to get from one plot point to another. It can be easy to forget that when put together well, they can be transcendent. Luckily, Alice Walker is here to remind us of that fact. With her new book of poems, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, Walker creates images that stick with you for their simplicity and strength.

Most of her poems are short, made up of a sentence or two, but all the more powerful for their brevity. One poem, called “I Will Not Deny,” takes up a single page, and ends with the very sensible advice “I will deny/me nothing/of myself.” Her turn of phrase makes her very short poems seem much longer, and much better for it. In “You Confide In Me,” she replies, after being told that the subject of the poem is lonely, that “You do not/own/a sofa!” and later, “A sofa is/essential/to all/that/lures/romance/to/your boudoir.” The sentiment is delightfully simple and wonderfully astute. The whole book is approximately 150 pages, which manages to feel complete yet not long enough.

Most of them cover topics on love or loss of love, particularly of family members. Walker discusses that her family history led her to learn how to dance, and that made her an unbridled optimist. That warmth flows freely through the poems. Predictably, they are also unabashedly feminist. She writes in the poem “The Taste of Grudge,” “I do not/regret/that/I am/imperfect./In each crack/there is/an orchid/growing.” In another poem, she warns “There is no/graceful/way/to/carry/hatred.” She writes about the strength within yourself, and how to find it. You can sense her life has not been easy, but her poems give the reader the benefit of her hard work.

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing should be required reading. It is full of beautiful words, gorgeous messages and powerful images. As Walker herself says, “I was born to grow, /alongside my garden of plants, /poems list this one.” Thank goodness for that.

Written by: Taylor Rhodes, January 11th 2011