Book: Voices in the Twilight - Literary art at its finest
Book: Voices in the Twilight
Author: Louis Alexander Hemans
Critic: Glenville Ashby, PhD
It is easy to get bedazzled by an author’s fine writing and miss the wisdom that his words convey. One such example is Louis Alexander Hemans’ Voices in the Twilight. Delivered with poetic cadence and colour, its philosophical nuggets find themselves buried, if only for moments.
Unto a literary landscape are reflections on history, geopolitics, aesthetics, and art.
Hemans traverses epochs, juxtaposing scenes, past and present, to unveil a cryptic statement on liberty in the narrative, ‘Bottom Pond.’ Here, liberty is never divorced from survival. It is wrapped in the mysterious, the foreboding, and the intrepid. It is bloody and fanatical as death ever lurks. On the plantations of yore, the thrust for freedom breaths, chain-stoking, at times, but alive. Unmistakably, ‘Bottom Pond’ is a remarkable document, deserving of a detailed critique. It is imaginatively and metaphorically rich. Hemans pens, “At midnight a screech owl passed overhead and a dog’s howl was long and mournful.”
A bitter end awaits an evil enslaver, we surmise.
Throughout, there are degrees of instinctive anxiety. From plantation life and its most gruesome possibilities, our attention shifts to the agony ‘inside’ a makeshift abattoir and the painful struggle of an animal to break free. And it does, threatening to turn the tables on its executioners and anyone in its way.
“The men gathered their wits and approached warily with ropes and sticks. At this point, the bull tried for freedom. It leaked the wall. Enraged and snorting anger, it took to the snake-like road, glaring at everything in its path.”
Hemans moves seamlessly and enviably into prose, although his signature poeticism is decisively present.
From couplets to quatrains and sonnets, he is measuredly tonal. His elastic range never truly compromises the existential theme of his work. Despite the brutality of the subject, he remains subtle but poignant. In ‘All the Gods are Sleeping,’ he intones, “Yahweh, Allah, and Almighty God. Someone needs to wake them up. Why do they sleep when women weep? Weep for the loss of son and daughter? Even unborn babies in the womb [a]re not secure from senseless slaughter.”
In ‘Ready to Fight,’ ‘The General,’ and ‘Epitome of Hypocrisy,’ he condemns the parlousness and inhumanity of war and the coldness of its architects. Still, his words are never laboured by the horrors they describe. Every word triggers the conscience, our last defence against self-destruction.
Conversely, in ‘So Much Love,’ he is aesthetically disarming. “I had so much to give. So much love. Hanging from the vine, Like good grape that makes fine wine. But no one wanted love.
“So my love grew old and wilted and withered on the vine. Like good grape that makes fine wine ...”
Are we really infected with self-hatred? he probes in ‘Is it True,’ a provocative look into race, culture, and identity.
“While others lend, we borrow,” he asserts. “While others swim, we sink in the quagmire; of indolence and mediocrity; of hypocrisy and violence; while others seek solitude; we seek the noise of the crowd; and dance to the music of the drum.”
In the end, Hemans might have given us a far more interesting and complex response to his enquiry.
In ‘Country Woman,’ he accords the black woman with natural beauty, industry, and wisdom. “I see you now ... independent, proud Black woman, Mother of many sons and daughters, Wife of a strong Black man...You have no fear for man or beast, of ghosts, you have no fear at all ...”
And of her male counterpart in ‘Country Man,’ Hemans is equally appreciative : “I see you now, Black Country Man, Striding strong and free ...”
Hemans embraces nature’s continuance and infinite wisdom, seeking its communion, even in death. But in a moment of humanness, he recoils, unable to envision his rotting corpse merging with the infinite. There is something unnerving to the lifeless body engulfed in cackling embers, a body that transforms into dusty ash ceremoniously sprinkled on nature’s bed.
“Then, place my ashes by the roots of some tree ... so that its leaves may grow greener; So that it may produce more fruits; And true lovers may meet and embrace beneath its shade.”
In this gestalt of fine work, every offering is weighty, but Hemans, arguably, delivers his most compelling message in ‘The Enemy.’ Somehow, it exceeds the philosophical depth of the Delphic maxim’: ‘Man Know Thyself,’ as it peers into, with ontological certainty, our congenital pathology. Hauntingly, we face the truth: “Man, Your Enemy is Yourself.”
Equally instructive are the narratives, ‘Angelita,’ and the cathartic ‘Razor Blade.’
As the proverbial curtain falls we are well assured of Hemans’ boundless artistry.
Voices in The Twilight by Louis Alexander Hemans
Copyright 2017 Louis Alexander Hemans
Available at Amazon and iuniverse.com
Ratings: Highly recommended
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