cover image Thief in the Interior

Thief in the Interior

Phillip B. Williams. Alice James (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-938584-17-6

Williams (Burn), editor of Vinyl Poetry and a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship recipient, adroitly constructs a flowing personal narrative through such broader cultural issues as racism, religion, love, and homophobia. Speaking in a lyrically diverse delivery, and with emotions crackling within its formal constraints, Williams’s collection acts as a labyrinth of self-spun webs and a lament for the bleak pattern of police brutality inflicted on black bodies. The bodies of young black boys are sacrificed; the cocktail of dire circumstance and systemic inheritances are made even crueler in the daylight. In “Agenda,” Williams transforms the hoodie into a symbol of unspoken yet fierce brotherhood, while “The Force of Aperture” exposes the American Dream as “white writhing over black, the American aesthetic.” Reading the collection’s third section leaves bruises as Williams’s poetic I filters the speaker’s visceral reactions through various degrees of vulnerability. The bluntness and heat of such confessions produce a strange allure in the musicality of the lines and in the beating hearts behind the nameless characters profiled. More than a straightforward work of protest poetry, this book becomes a multitude of distinct voices into the collective sound of a larger movement. (Jan.)