On the Ghetto Exorcist

Poems about violence are hard to write — and if they are written well, they are also hard to read.  I have just finished one of the best chapbooks I have ever read.  James Tyner’s The Ghetto Exorcist won The Coal Hill Review’s 2009 chapbook contest and I can see why. This slim collection explodes with sharp language and danger, somehow  finding the beauty of violence.  The bio note at the end of the chapbook calls Tyner a “struggling pacifist” and anyone reading his poems can see this struggle.  His work comes from the violence of the gang world where he came from — my favorite poem is “After Jumping Some Kids and Taking Their Money, 1988” where the narrator details the event with precision and even a sort of innocence, especially with the opening line: “We buy Cheetos and Fanta/with the money we stole./Took it as they cried/pried it loose with kicks to the stomach/and stomps to the face.” 

The Ghetto Exorcist is an ebook, and while I don’t usually read collections online (this is not a literary snob remark — I just have trouble reading longer works online), I couldn’t resist this collection. 

Here is the address:


I looked up James Tyner and couldn’t find any full length collection out there — I hope, I hope, one is coming soon!


  1. Stephanie Said:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I just read it, and it’s great. Really, really love “Just a raggedness with teeth” and “He asks me if I know what / the color of brains really is, / and I answer that the ribs / are getting cold.”

  2. Tyner Said:

    Hello. I just wanted to thank you for that awesome review. For a beginning poet like myself, it really means a lot. I am working on a book, it’s nearly finished. Hopefully I can find a publisher soon. If anyone is curious, here are a few new poems I read recently at the Fresno Poets Summer Reading series. Hope you enjoy.

  3. Karen Said:

    Thanks James, for stopping by and leaving the video/link. Good luck with your work!

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