Difficult Fruit by Lauren K. Alleyne

Difficult Fruit

Peepal Tree Press, 2014

Difficult Fruit grapples with personal experience—with naming and claiming the “fruits” of Alleyne’s specific journey into womanhood, which includes coming to terms with violence and loss, celebrating love and connection, as well as standing witness in the world that shaped the journey. It is a collection of poems about self-knowledge—of fighting for and winning personhood as a woman. The speaker understands that “maybe older and wiser is just learning / how to put yourself in your own good hands.” The poems of age scattered throughout the manuscript both chronicle and disrupt time—they look back into the speaker’s past as a way to understand the present, as well as to find something that the speaker needs in order to move forward. The many elegies within consider the ultimate price of life, which is death, and as the poem “How It Touches Us” comes to realize, “all laws of matter must hold true”. The poems are a movement through fracture—both necessary and unwarranted—toward wholeness and transformation.


Praise for Difficult Fruit

In a masterful and sure poetic voice, a stunning debut, Lauren Alleyne takes us through the milestones of a life—from the vulnerabilities of a woman facing the pressures of forming her own identity, to what it means to be a person of difference, to what it means to journey through a culture with racial profiling. At the same time, Alleyne shows us what it means to love, to become engaged in a life of passion­-- directed not only toward a single person but toward the world at large.

— Mary Swander, Poet Laureate of Iowa, author of The Girls on the Roof

Difficult Fruitis a book I wish there were no need for. But need there is; and Alleyne delivers poems of loss and grief and, thankfully, hope. “Meaning is the closest we get to salvation,/which is to say the word changes nothing/--it does not unmake the rivers,” she writes. But addressing the ages in ghazal and crown and free verse forms, she reminds us, in the “flaming sentence” that in one’s life, “it is in the raft of language we begin our escape.”

— Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, author of Open Interval

These “lyrics lay bare the marrow,” examine an interior life and dreams, then turn their faces outward to the world with messages of celebration, cultural displacement, the transport of temporal sensation and the torment and regret of violence and self-destruction.”

— Alison Meyers, Executive Director of Cave Canem

To go back “is a verb conjugated in dreams,” Lauren Alleyne writes in her debut volume Difficult Fruit, inscribing the governing mystery of this work, the secret knowledge of the dead. In anaphoric bursts of incantatory disclosure, in ghazals of love and survival, eros and the infinite, she does, indeed, go back, past all griefs and illuminations, “to the song beneath the song.” There is uncommon spiritual knowledge here as well as political discernment. There is much to learn while accompanying Alleyne on her “raft of language,” through a troubled world and an imagined heaven, to the place “from which comes all singing.” I have gone with her and would do so again and again.

— Carolyn Forché, 2017 Windham Campbell Prize winner

Next Book: Honeyfish