The Malevolent Volume

By Justin Phillip Reed


Welcome to our journey through The Malevolent Volume, a compelling collection of poetry by the acclaimed poet Justin Phillip Reed. Known for his intense and vivid verse, Reed explores themes of identity, societal norms, and the undercurrents of power and resistance in his works. 📚✨

This collection, marked by its daring style and profound subject matter, continues to push the boundaries of contemporary poetry. Reed, an award-winning poet known for his previous work Indecency, brings a unique voice and perspective to the literary world. Set against the backdrop of modern-day challenges, his poems resonate with a sense of urgency and profound insight.

Genre-wise, Reed’s poetry often blends narrative and lyrical elements, creating a space where personal meets political. The poems are not just read; they are experienced, demanding engagement and reflection from the reader.

Meaning of The Malevolent Volume

Opening section: The opening verses of The Malevolent Volume set a tone of confrontation and challenge. Reed begins with vivid imagery and sharp contrasts to draw readers into a world where every word weighs heavy with meaning.

Mid section: As the collection progresses, the poems delve deeper into the core themes of power, identity, and resistance. Reed uses personal narrative infused with historical and cultural references, creating layers of meaning that require attentive reading to unravel.

Concluding section: The conclusion of The Malevolent Volume brings a reflective yet unresolved tone, suggesting continuity in the struggles and themes addressed throughout. Reed leaves the reader with lingering questions about self, society, and the possibility of transformation through the act of poetic expression.

In-depth Analysis

Each stanza in The Malevolent Volume is meticulously crafted, weaving together a tapestry of sound, form, and meaning. Here’s a closer look:

Syntax and Diction

  • Reed’s choice of words is often stark and powerful, creating a rhythm that echoes the poem’s themes. The syntax can be disjointed or fluid, mirroring the chaos or flow of the thoughts being expressed.

Figurative Language

  • Metaphors and similes are used extensively to draw connections between disparate ideas and to highlight the intensity of the emotions involved.

Literary Techniques

  • Reed employs various literary techniques such as alliteration, assonance, and consonance, enhancing the musical quality of his verses and emphasizing key concepts or emotions.

Poetic Devices used in The Malevolent Volume

DeviceExample from The Malevolent VolumeExplanation
Alliteration“bitter battering beats”The repetition of the ‘b’ sound mimics the impact or intensity of the subject matter.
Assonance“I am the ash of afternoon”The repetition of the ‘a’ sound enhances the lyrical quality and can convey a sense of melancholy or weariness.
Consonance“dark deeds done in daylight”The repetition of the ‘d’ sound emphasizes the grimness and boldness of the actions described.
Enjambment“We fight the fire that licks the logs / under the soot-black sky.”The continuation of a sentence across lines mirrors the ongoing struggle, flowing like the fire described.
Metaphor“the moon—a blind eye in the night”This metaphor suggests indifference or inability to see, enhancing the theme of overlooked struggles or hidden truths.
Simile“cries like whirlwinds”Similes compare the cries to whirlwinds, highlighting their ferocity and how they can engulf or affect everything around them.
Personification“Justice throws its shadow far beyond the dusk”Personifying ‘justice’ as something that can cast a shadow illustrates its pervasive and sometimes ominous influence.
Hyperbole“will echo through eternity”Exaggerating the impact to imply that the actions or events will have a lasting, unending effect.
Irony“the victor’s crown, heavier than lead and just as toxic”Irony is used here to critique the notion of victory, suggesting that winning can be burdensome and harmful.
Symbolism“the chained book opens”The book, often a symbol of knowledge or power, being chained suggests restriction or controlled knowledge, and its opening indicates liberation or revelation.

The Malevolent Volume – FAQs

Q: What is the main theme of The Malevolent Volume? A: The main themes include the exploration of identity, power, and resistance against societal norms.

Q: How does Justin Phillip Reed use form in his poetry? A: Reed experiments with varied poetic forms to enhance the thematic expressions of his work, often using free verse to allow for a more fluid and dynamic expression.

Q: Can The Malevolent Volume be considered accessible to all readers? A: While the themes are universally relevant, the complexity of language and structure may require attentive reading, making it more suited for those accustomed to reading poetry.

Q: How does Justin Phillip Reed’s background influence his poetry in The Malevolent Volume? A: Reed’s experiences as an African American and his views on social justice profoundly shape his poetic themes, focusing on identity, resistance, and the critique of societal norms.

Q: What is the significance of the collection’s title, The Malevolent Volume? A: The title suggests a powerful, perhaps harmful force within the pages, implying that the poetry itself acts as a vessel of profound and possibly unsettling truths.

Q: How might a student approach analyzing a poem from The Malevolent Volume for an AP literature course? A: Students should focus on dissecting the structure, form, and use of poetic devices like those listed above. They should also consider the socio-political context Reed addresses, interpreting how the personal reflections relate to broader societal issues.

Q: Are there any recommended secondary sources for understanding The Malevolent Volume better? A: While specific secondary sources are not listed, students are encouraged to look at scholarly articles on contemporary poetry, cultural criticism, and works on the history of racial issues in America as Reed often touches on these themes.

The Malevolent Volume Study Guide

Exercise: Identify all the poetic devices used in the following verse from The Malevolent Volume: “Darkness drops again; and now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Answer Key:

  • Alliteration: “stony sleep”
  • Allusion: Reference to the biblical city of Bethlehem
  • Metaphor: “rough beast”
  • Enjambment: The continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line.