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Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth.

by Alice Walker Random House, March 2003 $22.95, ISBN 0-375-50904-6

My first reading of Alice Walker's recent poetry collection, Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth, left me feeling uncomfortable. Not because of Walker's subject matter, which consistently revisits issues of social and environmental justice, and America's blinding ethnocentrism. Something else.

I read the poems aloud. Lines like: "The smallest child/Understands:/Anyone who steals from us/Is a terrorist;/Anyone who steals from us/Is a thief;/Anyone who loves/Has won."

The lines where short, but never felt truncated. I asked myself were they accessible to a non-academic reading audience? I was used to reading a poem as a kind of academic exercise where my frenzied brain and eye sought to figure it all out. Walker's quietness disquieted me. But, the more I read, the less frenzied I became.

Walker's poems are meditative and evoke a Zen-like reflection. They are psalms about the human capacity for great good and the same capacity for unimagined brutality.

These poems are praise songs for the dead and the living. In "Ancestors to Alice," she writes: "Forget about trying/To keep all/The pretty houses/Going;/These are only/The toys/We gave you/Because/In you/We felt/We deserved/To play."

There are love songs for the old, the young and the revolutionary, and sermons for the policy makers; in "Why War Is Never a Good Ideal," she declares, "Though War speaks/Every language/It never knows what to say/To frogs."

Walker continues to be a poet who believes in the power of language as a manifestation of spirit. Her poetry lets us revisit places we need to go, and listen to our own harried hearts.

--Kelly Norman Ellis is a poet and associate director of the MFA program in creative writing at Chicago State University.
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Author:Ellis, Kelly Norman
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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