Self-Destruction or Self-Creation? A Review of Self-Inflicted by Drake A. Lightle

Posted on March 26, 2011

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By mike Maher., Editor of Sea Giraffe

Immediately displaying an incredible, almost intimidating sense of emotional honesty, Self-Inflicted will grasp many readers from the very beginning because of its ability to relate. Drake A. Lightle uses a spirited grasp of the english language to drift between topics such as addiction, loss, self pity, self destruction, and longing, to name the most jarring from a lengthy list.

Coming from Gold Fish Press, Self-Inflicted is simultaneously brilliant, gripping and perhaps just a bit amateurish. Beautiful language and heartbreaking images and situations are tripped up by a clumsy stylistic choice to avoid the use of punctuation almost completely or by the occasional cliche that sneaks its way into a poem (see excerpts: “monkey see monkey do” or “i want to splash into your oceans”).

It is difficult, if not impossible, to completely dislike Mr. Lightle’s work, though, especially when he reels off a poem like “skull.” This poem begins with a vivid depiction of the insanity of addiction:

“Self-indulgence, self-medication-
self-destruction? or self-creation

Ah, to live one’s life
through the voices echoing
within the safety and isolation
of the calcified bubble that is the skull
fills life with a greater sense
of satisfaction and significance
than reality ever could.”

Addiction is portrayed in this work as a coping mechanism, a way for the narrator of these poems to self medicate and avoid dwelling on lost relationships. However, there is an almost overbearing presence of “she” throughout which clouds the entire work with melancholy. Some of the poems even appear to be love letters gone wrong (see: “the freeway between us,” “Her Hallowed Heart”), while others are so varied and overly personal that they are bound to strike into the hearts of even the most removed readers (see: “bugs under the skin,” “skull”).

Lightle’s opening piece, “the freeway between us,” addresses the strained relationship with the author’s wife and her relocation. It closes with, “I don’t want to remember you as walking away from me/ down a road which both separates and connects us,/ this freeway that stretches and measure all that’s between us.”
This is a telling, even if accidental, ending to Self-Inflicted‘s opening piece, as it alludes to the path ahead of the reader which both “separates and connects” to Lightle’s innermost “excruciating psychological pain.”

There is much to like within the pages of Self-Inflicted, and only a very small amount to dislike. This work is personal without becoming whiny or bemoaning one’s entire existence, making it already a contemporary work which succeeds where many others continue to fall onto a monotonous compost heap. Lightle shares personal turmoil with the intimacy of a close friend and the openness of a patient sharing with his doctor, and for that he should be applauded.

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