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

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.

2 Responses to “Reviews/Interviews”
  1. Latest review of my novel by Guitar Heaven on amazon.

    Mini-novel set in the beautiful backdrop of Taos, New Mexico, “Winds of Wildfire” is as much a novel as it is a tribute to the Spanish/Indian perspective of life and death which can pose interesting predicaments and contrasts to the traditional Anglo American lifestyle. Ronald Chávez writes with the pace and feel of a Michael Crichton thriller and the frankness of Walt Whitman.
    Life in the Southwest was once a wide open frontier untouched by western influences and kept in harmony by a thousand year old native culture. Now in modern times, the mix of cultures in Chávez’s book have found a tentative melting pot balance which is often teetering upon unforeseen circumstances lurking around the next corner. Life’s riches are explored though the vastness of the other’s culture. The central character, Amee, is an easterner who must confront the hurdles of being a single woman in a Hispanic/Indian governed society without her normal support structures she’s accustomed to relying upon.
    The imagery of Chávez’s New Mexico is breathtakingly distinctive. The voyage is swift and exhilarating. “Winds of Wildfire” is a celebration of southwestern life from a refreshing and enlightened perspective. It’s a “can’t put down book” which will reel you into another realm of understanding of the “Land of Enchantment”.

  2. Amee Brooks drifts west from Boston after a failed romantic fling and lands in Taos, New Mexico, an ancient land living the last vestiges of the old West. After buying a cabin on an acre of land where she plants a garden at a time of a severe drought her neighbor, Araña, cuts off her water at the mother irrigation ditch. She angrily confronts him which results in a brutal encounter flamed with bigotry. In despair, she hikes at Wild Rivers on the Rio Grande Gorge. There she meets Donato, a poet of Spanish ancestry. She finds Donato intriguing but strangely frightening.
    Donato is seeking closure from the tragic loss of his wife in a road accident. He isolates himself from the world as a volunteer caretaker at Wild Rivers. Donato invites Amee to shoot pool at the VFW in the remote village of Cerro after she reveals her problem with Araña. He introduces her to Vidal, an elder in the village who knows the lay of the land and local politics.
    There, Amee is ushered into a confusing Spanish culture. Vidal offers to help Amee. She meets Polly the bartender, a Viet Nam Vet who struggles with his war demons. Finally, Amee begins to feel she belongs.
    Meanwhile, Billy, an Indian lad from Taos Pueblo makes a life altering decision after a life of booze and drugs when he absorbs a beating over a girl. He elects to live in the mountains above Taos. To his astonishment, he discovers an ancient horde of gold and is beset with a mind blowing dilemma.
    Fate intervenes. Polly is wrongly accused of a crime. Thus a series of events involving conflicting forces is set in motion. Intrigue, unrequited love, courtroom drama, sexual tensions and soul searching unfold in sensuous, complex relationships.

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