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Candace J. Durden
Poetic Conduct
She is a poetic therapist with an authentic style, who invites the reader to listen, relate and heal. Poetic Conduct offers a professional counselor's approach to self-healing through poetry. The reader will explore the realness of written expressions of admiration, love interests, support, grief, loss, and healing.
Durden’s debut collects urgently personal poetry centered on, as the title suggests, the idea of “conduct”—how we behave in crushes and in love, how we face loss and addiction, how we must unite in the face of racial injustice and community degradation, and more. The language is direct, self-revealing, and impassioned, with a sensuous rhythmic pulse that’s most immediately apparent in entries dedicated to romance. In short lines that build to pointedly repetitive “so”s, the playful “Secret Admirers” captures not just the thoughts of a woman with a crush but the quickening of her heart as she runs the math to convince herself that what she thinks the man’s feeling is real: “He looks at me /so, he notices / He spoke to me /so, he’s approachable / He stares when he thinks I don’t see it /so, he likes me.”

That’s one of several poems dedicated to the irresistible idea of infatuation, a topic Durden handles with a fizzing sense of yearning and possibility. A related rhythm also powers “My Type,” which considers the traits of Durden’s ideal partner (“A man / A strong black man / A no-nonsense type of man”) with much engaging internal rhyme and stanza-ending declarations of “That’s right.” The tone is more rarified in the powerful “My King,” where a repeating structure and simpler language makes clear the urgent weight of the message. She writes, “Black men, you are strong / Black men, you are cherished and / Black men, you are loved.”

The collection also includes tributes to Durden’s mother and grandmother, a stage-ready call for unity and change, (“Let us unite to dismantle slavery, / Mental imprisonment, debt, physical bondage of jails and prisons”), and a celebration of having paid off student loans that shares a title with an Eric B. & Rakim classic and kicks off with the memorable couplet “Navient, it was you [or] the rent.” Readers looking for poetic straight talk with heat and bounce will find much here that engages.

Takeaway: Pulsing poems of love, life, unity, and cherishing Black men.

Comparable Titles: Evie Shockley, Jessica Care Moore.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A