~bn Book Review: This Someone I Call Stranger by James Diaz

In literature, explorers of bleak places at times paint words on a canvas so dark, that at first glance you view scattered bright embers only in passing. In reflection, they burn so brightly that you don’t know how you could have ever missed the beacon. This is the nature of poetic insight. This is how James Diaz crafts a poem.

the thumb
assaults the blood flow
inwardly you think, This
is what it must feel like
to be saved
to be warm…”

In his debut book of poems, “This Someone I Call Stranger” James Diaz paints his words with so fine a brush, these small graces of brightness call out, reach beyond the dark swirl of recollection, catch flecks of color at unexpected angles and broadcast them back to the readers eye.

“every day
a land mine
the soul has to cross

better in that grassy knoll
up ahead

& you are up and this is a life
& you can’t shrug it off…”

Elements of love, friendship, roots of shared fate entwine in themes that run deep beneath the surface of hard living and shoot tendrils that home in on the light, even when that light is something in a half-remembered anecdote.

“and maybe their light is connected to yours
dim theirs and you dim your own
The light is on and off
seasonal, fluxing, sluicing,
impossibly alive somehow after all of the damage you put on.”

There is nothing telegraphed here. You will feel that Diaz the writer is as surprised by the place the words have arrived as is the reader. This is when writing is at its most effective, —as it occurs, the purest form of sharing.

“how to track & trace the things gone missing
shove them into our mouths
full-fisted & weeping

so much of the soul is carry-on luggage
what matters most won’t fit”

And that the things that get us by are almost never things pursued, but the byproduct of perseverance and simple kindnesses. Diaz expresses gratitude without platitudes or found formulae.

“it’s been called the best thing about us
not knowing who we are.”

These are poems that encompass the specific themes of addiction and recovery, relationship and loss, but the writing never feels narrowed in their treatment. There is a universality here that will resonate in anyone who has encountered hardship or known struggle —and those many who may not have yet resolved the focus of hope, but have recognized a glint on the horizon… that hope exists, and that’s where you start.

BlogNostics highly recommends “This Someone I Call Stranger”

©2018 BlogNostics (DSS/JB)

This Someone I Call Stranger

 “This Someone I Call Stranger” is available at Indolent Books  and Amazon.

You can view James Diaz’s poetry published on BlogNostics here.


James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2018). He is founding Editor of the literary arts & music mag Anti-Heroin Chic. His work has appeared most recently in Occulum and Philosophical Idiot. He lives in upstate NY and occasionally tweets @diaz_james.

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