Ugly Duckling Presse calls it “an experiment in creating autobiography’s negative.” It shares something with never-have-I-ever, except without alcohol (or counting). But, most of all, Alexis Almeida’s I Have Never Been Able to Sing starts with never-have-I-evers and moves into telling the story of Almeida herself.
Every poem but one starts with “I have never” before moving through an assortment of things Almeida has never done, but has dreamed of doing, or has no desire to do, or does on the routine. The interspersed things she does do come as little startling flares in poems filled with I have never or I never or I don’t, making them delightful as little hidden gems.
None of the poems end quite the same way. A few end with the same structure that they begin: I have never. Others, however, branch out, into things done, or desired, or imagined, things real or, possibly, fantastical—except, in the realm of these poems, the fantastical somehow seems quite quotidian.
One poem starts differently, though it returns to the common refrain in the first line: “I like bright fabric. I like to wrap myself in / substance. I have never had good balance, though / I would like to.” But here, as in all the other poems in I Have Never Been Able to Read, Almeida works in those little gems of information amongst the never-have-I-evers.
The poetry of I Have Never Been Able to Sing skips between free form and prose poetry, with I have never forming its own kind of rhythm in the lines of poetry. Some of the poems are startling funny. Others are poignant. All of them give a window into Alexis Almeida—and, indeed, into the reader as well, because each of us will be moved in our own way by her words, twinging into the fantastical and the quotidian alike.