JoeyPinkney.com Book Review
Message in My Pen
4 out of 5 stars
“Message in My Pen” is Luella Hill-Dudley’s fourth published collection of poetry. In addition to the poetry, this book is full of photographs, illustrations and mixed media from James & Yvette Loveless, Kelvin Curry and Henry Lee Battle.
Although the title is about the message in Luella’s pen, this collection of poetry reaches way beyond the words that are used in the poems. There is an energy of concern, encouragement and rejuvenation that will uplift you when if you are down and take you higher if you are feeling great. “Message in My Pen” is an open invitation into Luella Hill-Dudley’s life – the good and the bad. (see: “Watch Me Work”)
There are poems that teach. There are poems that preach. There are poems that reach out to pull you out of your seat. Dudley opened herself to her talent. Win, lose or draw, she gives you her reality, her fears, her pain and her pleasure.
Luella deals with racism in America on different levels. She points out the disrespect towards President Obama played out in American media for the world the see. (see: “No Disrespect”) She tells of the plight of the Black Man as he struggles to survive in a world that blatantly beats him over the head with preconceived notions of inadequacy and subtle stumbling blocks. (see: “Black Man’s Story”) She even ponders her personal journey through a society that pigeon holes her based solely on her skin – a skin with a history of success and resiliency. (see: “My Color”)
Dudley even takes a look at the after effects of American racism on the relationship between the black man and the black woman. In her poem “A Conversation with My Sistahs”, she poses questions to her sisters. These questions aren’t meant to agitate, blame or pardon. They dig down into the functions of both sexes and how a black woman’s role in today’s society can bring the black man back into his rightful position that was stripped away from him during America’s tortuous history with slavery.
Dudley also spends time touching on love and relationships. These poems captures the insecurities that domestic violence brings. (see: “Getting Even”) These poems challenge her lover to step up to the plate and equally match her love. (see: “Back to Back”) These poems stare love’s gun directly down the barrel and unflinchingly dares love to pull the trigger. You get a sense of who she is as a woman through these morsels of her lyrical mind.
Through her poetry, you get to see the world through her eyes. You see the young lives lost. You see the undue stress the news media can bring into the household. You see the intimate feelings involved in her search for love. You begin to see your place in society as you read her words. “Message in My Pen” is a collection that takes a lot of courage to release into the world because gives you controversy, insecurity and blatant honesty. Certain poems may set you on a personal journey because they hit close to home. Other poems may stop you dead in your tracks because they make you ponder new thoughts.
There are poems in “Message in My Pen” that lose my attention. It’s not that they don’t rhyme. It’s not that they don’t have rhythm. It’s not that they are overly complex nor too simple. These poems lose me because they are weak in comparison to the other poems in the collection. What makes them weak? I’ve heard them before. I’ve read them before. I’ve thought them before. They are not as powerful and unique as the other poems. I’ll explain further. A reader does not have the benefit of hearing and seeing the poet perform the nuances embedded in his or her poems. So, the words and ideas have to stand alone because a reader is reading a book, not experiencing a performance. To that effect, a poem like “Sending Message” pales in comparison to “Little Woman”.
Luella Hill-Dudley’s “Message in My Pen” is a living document of a woman who is willing to turn herself inside out in order to make full use of a God-given talent. (see: “I’m Back”) Right or wrong, it asks the hard questions and presents the complex emotions. It may sooth in one poem and seethe in the next. Although most of the poems are universal in their subject matter, “Message in My Pen” can be very relatable to Black Women in urban areas across America. From pre-performance jitters (see: “Did You Hear That?”) to refusing to be bitter, “Message in My Pen” will give you one to grow on.