Book Review | A poet’s defiance stirs the imagination
Book: Out from Babylon System: Liberation of Mind
Poet: Christena A.V. Williams
Critic: Glenville Ashby, PhD
Christena Williams delivers her art with uncompromising tenor. Images flash and emotions parade before us with abandon. Hers is raw, unbridled talent that begs for attention. Williams comes to life with the an impassioned conjuration of her personal pain and that of her people. She is adept at the spoken word, and with boundless zeal and enviable joie de vivre, she turns despair into triumph.
She is humble, but her brashness cannot be concealed. She exudes hope, but there is no denying the vestige of fatalism that seeps into her space. She emerges, though, with incendiary resilience. She is loud but equally subtle and gentle. Surely, this is a work of paradoxical intrigue.
Williams brings the revolutionary spirit of the 1980s to life in Out of Babylon. There are echoes of Marley and Kuti, Biko, and Rodney.
With an unmistakable existential roar in 'Where did I come from?' Williams' cauldron bubbles over. "I was thrown into the fires of lies and stories. I was told about slavery, hate, and segregation ... I was left to my own squadron of thoughts to think ... The history of humanity that is circulated seems blurry ..."
And in Tearing away the Mask, Williams seeks authenticity. In the vein of Winnicott, she unveils the two selves that grapple for relevance. She must [emerge] "from the bottomless pit to see the surface, clearing away the debris under which many faces hid".
The path towards individuation is thorny, though. With stark imagery, she pens, "Just see the Rembrandt before your eyes resurrect as a flower. See my weakness hollow like trees hole chopped out from within. See every thing that is hidden."
Resistance to Whom and What is arguably the most insightful work by this gifted poet. In an age that forces us into herds with little time for reflection and independent thought, Williams makes an about-face, unbowed by the zeitgeist of modern society. "Do not kid yourself thinking the world will transform because you say so. The world is not so much the issue. It is we."
Here, Williams dons the hat of a sage. And wear it well, she does.
Candour flares in 'I Am No Fool, a battle cry against the glib tongues of politicians. Well-schooled by her mother, she is impervious to vacuous promises: "I am no fool, so speak fluently with your ambiguity while in your mind, you grin behind closed doors ... you have sinned. No! You are not my hero. She is."
In the crafty Natural, Williams extols the purity of a life, untamed, untarnished by man's ignorance and indiscretions. With economy of words, she unleashes a scathing message to nature's saboteurs. "The quality of beauty is it's nakedness," and in rapid order, she adds, "No make-ups. No alters, No creams, no bleaching, No piecing, Nothing false, Just natural."
In The Mystery of the Ink, Williams celebrates the august, influential spirit of the arts. She pens, " ... I am a master of the ink ... I am a delight. I will open up your soul. Smile Cry Laughter Philosophy Wisdom."
Interestingly, in her romance, Williams is never bowed by a tortured past. Her words are ever translucent, stirring hope.
We are sold in Mystic Nirvana an introspective journey into the unconscious where the unimaginable comes to life; where the writer surrenders to her muse, and where immeasurable creativity abounds. We trail her ruminations: "I could sense things sometimes I did not understand ... For days nauseous and my writings would later manifest such feelings. I often wondered and questioned the unthinkable and not yet happened, Not for a sec did I think I was crazy or psychic ... I used to sit and wonder, I wonder about things that were not known. I paid keen attention to things that were not yet questioned. I was in nirvana."
No doubt, Out of Babylon is Williams' most meritorious work, every offering an indelible gem. With her rich and soldiering cadence, Williams has sealed her place as one of the region's most compelling artistic voices.
Out of Babylon System: Liberation of the Mind by Christena AV Williams
Publisher: Christena A.V. Williams
Available at Amazon
Ratings: Highly recommended