Advertisement

‘This Void Beckons’ ventures into new poetic places

  • 14
    Shares

To pick up This Void Beckons, by former University of Iowa student A.J.K. O’Donnell, is to take a journey through the question of human destiny. This is not a simple book of poetry, but a linguistic feast evoking an emotional and psychological response to the nuanced question, “How do we express our common humanity?”

‘This Void Beckons,’ released Jan. 24 on Cracked Jar Press.

The poems, though given separate headings, are really one continuous poem, which travels through an alliterative journey in which the reader is asked to participate. But this is no frolic through pretty words. The reader is almost immediately confronted with representations of abandonment, blind faith and false hope. As the thread of narrative continues, we are given clear examples of the worst side of humanity and its capacity for demonizing the Other, whether due to race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or any other quality that allows us to form an exclusionary group.

By using a second person narrative technique, O’Donnell acknowledges that the reader, as a member of humankind, also shares this story. We are drawn through the path toward virtually experiencing violence against ourselves, and as a result, we are pulled more deeply into the story. We are asked to imagine that we ourselves are the Other, and our path must go through assault and oppression in order to free ourselves from a legacy of fear.

As we move through violence, we come to a place of acceptance. Here, the human search for meaning can be expressed spiritually, religiously, or through scientific inquiry; this is the place where our common humanity shines, and all are valued for our differences as much as our similarities. Our intersectionality is paradoxically that which binds us together in an ideal state of existence.

A.J.K. O’Donnell. — photo courtesy of the author

Coming to the last third of the book, we gain an understanding of the Void: the emptiness which impels us to search for meaning and connection. It is not a negative quality, but a state of beginning and renewal. O’Donnell introduces two ungendered characters meant to reflect what we see as the best and the worst of human striving, and implies that they reflect the journey we are also taking. Through O’Donnell’s unique poetic voice, the reader experiences a desire for that journey and that renewal.

O’Donnell unpicks the meaning of her own poem in an afterword, and both challenges and invites the reader to do their own searching through the Void. In an age of conflict and strife, This Void Beckons is an emotionally taxing but rewarding way of beginning that search.


  • 14
    Shares

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep it free.

Voluntary contributions from readers like you help keep Little Village free for everyone.

Please consider a one-time or monthly sustaining contribution, in any amount.

Advertisement

A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene

STRENGTHEN
GROW•EVOLVE

Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.

Little Village's
BEST OF THE CRANDIC

The results are in! Find out which of your favorite CR and IC haunts took home a prize.