The poems in Alain N’Dalla’s debut collection Untamed Passions blend contemporary and old-fashioned language to address myriad issues.
Billed as an unflinching exploration of the author’s “ordeals with women and his fledgling relationships,” the collection spends much time on subjects of the heart. Poems like “Girl at the Bus Stop” and “Water Under the Bridge” explore various phases of a relationship, from love at first sight to ruminations long after a romantic bond has dissolved.
Often, the poems express bitterness. For example, in “Scrapbook,” the speaker notes: “I tear our pages as my angst rages; beseech/ old witches to drown you in the bottom of the sea.”
Much of the poetry uses common vernacular, but Untamed Passions also offers wording more akin to the tortured, Victorian musings of Edgar Allen Poe than a speaker navigating the perils of modern relationships. (Indeed, N’Dalla mentions 18th and 19th century poetic traditions and Edgar Allan Poe in his acknowledgements.) “Jar of Hearts,” for example, includes imagery of abbatoirs and throbbing hearts hidden in unlikely places. In “Poison,” the accusations of a lover wronged become the stuff of Gothic horror. “Oh teach me to love thee less!” beseeches the speaker of “The Widower’s Song.”
This mix of contemporary musings and Victorian motifs makes for a jarring read, and the work often fails under the weight of unimpressive metaphors and word play for its own sake. “Pretzel,” for example, provides these baffling lines: “I never did like pretzels./ Biscuits should be sweet./ You take with a pinch of salt/ and think my all deceit?” “Humpty Dumpty” is equally indecipherable: “I put all my eggs in one basket,/ let them hatch too./ Egg on my ego and mask it/ to conceal the yoke of you.” Additionally, the use of linguistic clichés such as “clear as mud” and “I bark up the wrong tree” seem uninspired.
All told, the collection requires some rethinking before it’s likely to appeal to contemporary poetry readers.
Also available as an ebook.