What We’re Reading: After the Witch Hunt
This is the first full collection of poems by spoken word poet Megan Falley. Falley’s background is in slam competitions. She both participated in and later coached the SUNY New Paltz college team. Falley’s work has also been published in various literary journals, including The Nervous Breakdown, PANK, Muzzle, Kill Author, The Legendary, Danse Macabre, and The Literary Bohemian.
I was able to pick up on the slam-ness of these poems more so than poetry by other spoken word poets who have translated their performance into text. The subject matter fits well with slam (and the page). Falley is dissecting societal standards and stereotypes, and pushing inconsistencies and unfair life experiences to harsh moments of understanding and truth. New York City, sex, love, depression, and suicide are all elements that pop up throughout the collection. The poems can be violent, indignant, angry, and then turn on their head to expose the vulnerable nature of the speaker.
However, there are also moments where slam breaks down on the page, doesn’t translate as seamlessly. Things we might excuse when being performed out loud, or things that might have greater emphasis and therefore, meaning, as slam, sometimes lose their poignancy on the page. This doesn’t happen in every poem, but because this collection is so large, one notices it more.
Perhaps this is personal taste, but I would’ve preferred a smaller chapbook, with more focus and intent, as a way to introduce my ears and mind to this writer. As is, the collection doesn’t feel as cohesive or naturally paced as it could be, if focused down. On the other hand, I can appreciate the length of this book. It shows just how prolific Falley is, and assures me that despite the occasional weak spot in a few poems, she will keep on writing.
Throughout, there are beautiful, insightful moments that surface in each poem. Her true glimmerings of potential make sure she’ll be a poet to watch. Here’s a sampling of a couple shining moments from one of my favorite poems early on in the collection, “The Honest House”:
In an effort not to crawl back to you,
I crossed the 2 train off my subway map
in blue ink, called it a river, sold our canoe
Yesterday I threw your clothes from our roof
knowing they would have fallen faster
had there been a body in them.