Monday, October 20, 2014

City of Eternal Spring By: Afaa Michael Weaver

City of Eternal Spring
By: Afaa Michael Weaver
Review By, Paige Shippie

*************   Paige Shippie,one of our talented students at Endicott College, took on the challenging task to review poet Afaa Michael Weaver's new collection of poetry City of Eternal Spring. Weaver recently won the Kingsley Tufts Award in Poetry.


In “City of Eternal Spring,”  Afaa Michael Weaver is on a journey of not only self discovery, but uncovering the origins of everything that has presented itself in his existence. As the Chinese String Theory would have it, this journey is never ending because as long as something is in existence, then it has a certain pull on the world and destiny (no matter how minuscule).

Weaver charts out his discovery in his travels through Eastern culture and his struggle  with memories that haunt him from the past. He aims to reinvent himself, but it is a slow process that sometimes requires him to forget his past life and past ego all together.

The titles that Weaver uses are usually underplayed; they are at a surface level while beneath there is vast life and rich imagery and meaning to dig up in his ppoetry. Underneath, there is a vivid scene that makes one travel to different worlds and everywhere and every moment in between. Weaver at first takes a tactile and tangible stance with his words and then broadens it out to be more metaphorical and  legend-like. Weaver starts by capturing a picture, and then focusing with his creative lens  on the ideas he wants to bring to the focal point. Like a camera, he freely zooms in and out and to varying degrees of the macroscopic world.  In this method, he ties together the idea that everything is unified, whole and interconnected through themes that Weaver can only begin to describe through intense imagery.

Weaver's original imagery is also used to stitch the seams of his emotion together, and there is never a cliche in sight: “Where a blossom lifts its head and thrives where flowers die,”(3). Sometimes Weaver’s beautiful imagery is highlighted in a off key way that allows its original connotation to transform into something seen as sad or painful; beauty is a recurring theme throughout Weavers poetry that always seems to spring from pain.

Weaver is heartfelt, genuine, honest, and revealing with the moments of clarity that he has uncovered in his world of uncertainty. He is not afraid to open himself up and be vulnerable to potential heartache and ridicule if it means he will become stronger as a man and have a better grasp of his own identity and where he stands in the world. “Except what I know is me, a man who melts, falls apart to be repaired in broken spaces,” (5,6). One continuously stumbles upon feelings of tragedy and loss in Weaver’s prose, but at the same time, one can take away the wonder and bewilderment that he expresses about himself and his place in the world.

In Weaver’s ‘Chinese Theory of Strings’, he doesn’t hesitate to flip his perception of the world upside down and question everything. He skillfully plays on alliteration and onomatopoeia throughout the poem while inventing his own method for assessing what is alive, dead, being and what constitutes as our own identity:“but I must believe all sound is evidence of life.” (7)
“the way a mirror leads us to love the face it shows us/ as we are tempted by our eyes to become what we see,” (7). Mirrors show the limits of our physical embodiment or identity as humans; they show permanence and something that cannot be altered. Mirrors however can be deceptive, and Weaver attributes this deceptive quality to mirrors multiple times. “I am Chinese in the mirror,”(8). Reflections pose as a double entendre in their meaning.

To Weaver, mirrors merely reflect the outer appearance, the external self, the shell of a human being. In no way does it reflect one’s identity, ability, or true self that resides in the core of one’s being. Sometimes this core resides in the heart for Weaver, sometimes it’s in his head or stomach; on many occasions his soul is in his throat;“The way to a scream that jacks open my mouth but holds sound hostage,”(8). Here Weaver shows that he is trapped in his body within the bonds of humanity, seeking a greater purpose and an endless expanse of knowing.

Weaver continuously tests the limits and potential of his own human experience: “I have come here to be what I cannot be,” (8). Weaver will not be limited by what he judges from his own reflection because he is not on a journey where his physical identity matters, he is on a journey to discover his inner being, potential and how much he is willing to sacrifice for his soul. As Weaver has written,“a caterpillar dreams itself beautiful,” (10). Weaver believes he can become the being that he wants to be and abandon the hurt he has felt while in his prior identity.

Weaver amplifies the ways of Taoism in his poetry that result from his heavy exposure to Eastern Culture. He believes that being lost can lead to true discovery: “A place where rain is breath, and summer mist, the gas that lets you dream of being lost.”  Taoism is also characterized by a positive, active attitude toward the occult and the metaphysical (theories on the nature of reality). Weaver has set up for himself a lifetime search for true meaning and purpose and will not only enlighten his soul, but will touch others with his words through his journey. 

                                                 ABOUT REVIEWER PAIGE SHIPPIE

 I am currently enrolled in the Honors Society and by May 2016, I will graduate from Endicott College with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing concentration, and Studio Art Minor. As an artist, my interests span subject matter and I employ various uses of media. As a singer and performance artist, I enjoy being a member of ECHO, or (Endicott College Harmonic Overtones), as well as having a presence in Endicott’s Jazz Band (as a vocalist). As a writer, I compose lyrics for Jazz Band and submit poetry for publication in Endicott's Literary Review Magazine. Since the summer of 2013 I've been working on a sci-fi novel called, The Doppelganger Effect. As a studio artist, I sculpt with copper wire and clay, paint in acrylic, illustrate in pencil, pen, and charcoal and am open to working with just about anything I can get my hands on.

At Masconomet Regional High School, I was a Poetry Out Loud State Finalist and Semi-Finalist, a Movie Festival Screenwriter and Director, a Boston Globe Show Gold Key and Honorable Mention Recipient (in Art), and an actress playing a few lead roles in the Movie Festival.

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