Book Review: Coyotes by Ken Arkind

No joke, Ken Arkind’s poetry collection Coyotes published by Penmanship Books hit me like a brick through an abandoned apartment window; it’s punk, it’s gritty, it’s subversive, it’s filled with story, and it will cut you if you aren’t careful.

Coyotes kicks off with “An Experiment in Noise,” arguably Arkind’s most well-known poem next to “God box,” which conveniently/brilliantly closes off this collection. “An Experiment in Noise” is an up-tempo beat driven battle cry for the revolutionary necessity of our words and our voices. It warns the reader of the naysayers and the fraudulent folk who will try to snuff out this gift. Arkind writes, “Click against the war drum of your jaw, / and echo the sound: / No” (74-76). Disclaimer: read this poem loud loud loud.

While “An Experiment in Noise” and “Godbox” are both beasts on and off the page (see for yourself down below), my favorite poems in the Coyotes collection gravitate toward the gritty bare knuckled assaults like “The Walt Jabsco of Colfax Ave.,” “Summer, 2001,” “Cowboy Hat, 1982,” and “Tom Sawyer Goes to College” among a handful of others. Arkind is a storyteller in the vein of Kerouac and Bukowski: raw and honest and immediate. He leaves the fluff in the incinerator.

In “The Walt Jabsco of Colfax Ave.” Arkind tells a story about growing up a punker in Denver with a crew of punker comrades all possessing a powerful disdain for sprinkler heads, authority figures, and racists. It opens with “We mistook our acne for Velcro; / stuck together mostly out of necessity” (1-2). It’s a story of adolescents and holding on to friends because that’s all there is to hold on to.

“Tom Sawyer Goes to College. American Poetry Apologizes to Trayvon Martin.” is a four part critical and satirical indictment on the hypocrisy of racial profiling and the perpetual racial stereotyping still alive in much of white America. Arkind writes, “Post racial America. / Translation: Post oxygen lungs” (41-42). In the poem, Arkind examines the ignorance of thinking racism no longer exists or that talking about it is somehow played out. He also questions/exposes the ignorance living within the educational system and amongst the youth.

Ken Arkind’s poetry collection Coyotes is an absolute beast, a sharp mohawk and old Army boots, stories of grit and Americana, a poetry book not for the feint of heart. Like I said earlier, these poems will cut you if you aren’t careful.

Check out Ken Arkind’s Coyotes and other awesome books at Penmanship Books


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