Employing the myths and folk tales of her childhood in Trinidad as well as the myths of her education in world poetry, Alleyne creates poems full of allusions that are never gratuitous and gimmicky. Instead they seem as urgent as the most sincere prayers, full of vulnerability, doubt, conviction and hope. Individual poems go where they will, but the collection as a whole is structured by a series of poems that chart the maturation of a woman from childhood into adulthood. It is not a chronological account, but one of emotional weight and meaning.
With the authority of a poet who has reflected deeply on her experience, who has shaped technical giftedness into accomplished craft, Difficult Fruit is the long-awaited debut of a poet from whom we will hear a great deal more in the future.
Praise for Difficult Fruit
To go back “is a verb conjugated in dreams,” Lauren K. Alleyne writes in her debut volume Difficult Fruit, inscribing the governing mystery of this work, the secret knowledge of the dead. In anaphoric bursts of incantatory disclosure, in ghazals of love and survival, eros and the infinite, she does, indeed, go back, past all griefs and illuminations, “to the song beneath the song.” There is uncommon spiritual knowledge here as well as political discernment. There is much to learn while accompanying Alleyne on her “raft of language,” through a troubled world and an imagined heaven, to the place “from which comes all singing.” I have gone with her and would do so again and again.
— Carolyn Forché
These “lyrics lay bare the marrow,” examine an interior life and dreams, then turn their faces outward to the world with messages of celebration, cultural displacement, the transport of temporal sensation and the torment and regret of violence and self-destruction.”
— Alison Meyers, Executive Director of Cave Canem
Lauren Alleyne’s voice is a revelatory and formidable fusion of irrepressible music and uncompromising craft. Like snippets of cinema, these poems arrest the senses and challenge what’s known. Every door this exceptional work opens onto a larger light.
— Patricia Smith
Difficult Fruit is a book I wish there were no need for. But need there is; and Alleyne delivers poems of loss and grief and, thankfully, hope. “Meaning is the closest we get to salvation,/which is to say the word changes nothing/--it does not unmake the rivers,” she writes. But addressing the ages in ghazal and crown and free verse forms, she reminds us, in the “flaming sentence” that in one’s life, “it is in the raft of language we begin our escape.”
— Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
In a masterful and sure poetic voice, a stunning debut, Lauren Alleyne takes us through the milestones of a life—from the vulnerabilities of a woman facing the pressures of forming her own identity, to what it means to be a person of difference, to what it means to journey through a culture with racial profiling. At the same time, Alleyne shows us what it means to love, to become engaged in a life of passion directed not only toward a single person but toward the world at large.
— Mary Swander, Poet Laureate of Iowa, author of The Girls on the Roof
Lauren K. Alleyne hails from the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have been widely published, and she is currently the Poet-in-Residence and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Dubuque in Iowa.