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review 2021-03-29 09:27
The death of love – and what comes after

 

“Ah, so this is what the world looks like from the epicenter of grief–”

 

Songs for Solo Voice

By James R. Whitley

 



This quote from Here, one of the poems in James R. Whitley’s Songs for Solo Voice, sums up this entire book of thirty-five poems.

After a second reading, I realized the works reminded me of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. Though Whitley’s book only has four parts, with a little rearranging and a bit of imagination the poems began to take on a significance for me they didn’t have initially.

The entire collection appears to focus on a failed relationship, the death of love, and begins with works that address anger and bargaining. A stanza from Souvenir says it best, “If I take it all back—the jagged insults hurled like careless daggers, the failing stargazer lilies and their accusations of neglect, every unconscionably late anniversary gift—could there be room left for negotiation?”

In Quite Taken, the bargaining continues for a reprieve from the unrelenting pain: “Does it explain my pleas for mercy that continue long after the church has crumbled to dust around me?”

Depression that comes with loss is expressed in Sostenuto“No matter how striking the tune, the sound after a song has been sung is no sound at all."

The suffering continues, but with a glimmer of acceptance with the realization in Here“is not just where I am, but where I am meant to be.”

Gradually the poems convey a hint of optimism as in Here, Finally, “…there comes a point when you realize that, no matter how long or torturous, no road is your enemy.” By the end of Songs for Solo Voice, the impression is one of reconstruction and working through, “but know that, when it comes to loss, none of us is immune." (Trembling Deliciously) and “…a game played—however badly, however distressing the ultimate defeat— was an option to win something. (The Inside Story of It)

And finally, in She Hangs Brightly, a declaration of hope; “Trust me when I say you will survive this, despite the difficult music lurking in the background. This is just the music of never-forgetting-her, the score of the rest of your life.”

Whitley uses a number of musical terms, which this reviewer did not understand or initially appreciate. But after looking up their definition found them to be remarkably appropriate in subsequent readings.

When read individually, most of the poems in this collection are exceptional for their raw beauty and intensity. However, as a theme, the bitterness and disappointment, the self-flagellating, and accompanying insecurity become burdensome.

Regret, like worry, is unproductive and tedious

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review 2021-02-27 06:55
Tempest: Poems that provide personal poetic epiphanies.

 

You can’t expect in a book of fifty poems that each one is going to speak to you. If the majority do then I would suggest the poet has done a very good job. 


In Tempest: Poems, poet, Ryan Meyer didn’t make the cut, but there still are a good number of poems in this collection that are nothing short of astonishing.

Meyer is at his best when he comes at a subject obliquely, understanding coming as a satisfying surprise. Examples, where this is best achieved, are with Flamingo, the weekend, and drinking and dreaming of being somewhere, anywhere else. And again in Straight Bs, “Still, the lights guide me, Inch by inch, to the dance floor, Where glances have evolved Into lower back rubs … It’s dim enough for anyone To be a dance partner.”

Good poets have a way of saying what you already know or have experienced but saying it with originality. Meyer taps into this secret to universal appeal in Somewhere Else, that “…ends up just as disappointing as right here.” And again, in Cavernous where “Even my dreams leave me An anxious mess, feeling as if I’ve missed something, that I Have reason to be worried.”

This originality can also be illustrated in a unique perspective as is the case in On Evolution, where the poet compares his own purpose to that of a caterpillar and worries, “I hope growing wings doesn’t have to hurt”. And then with Long, Long After, a unique reflection of the past “The way everything was Before pie tins on the kitchen table Became ashtrays beneath wrinkled faces”.

Sometimes it’s diction, cleverly choosing the exact words. This is exemplified in A Melancholy Album Cover for a Coffee Shop Artist where Myer nails the affectations of an amateur. He achieves it again in Come Around, with this description “… the women who wouldn’t have Let this go any other way, who stood, Arms crossed, one foot tapping, Eyes staring daggers, unmovable, In the way of all other outcomes." Unique imagery that resonates on the periphery of your consciousness. 

His success is with poems that are not momentous, but just moments, like the heartrending description of the death of a sparrow in No Science to Loneliness.

However, themes of relationship angst, reminiscences of misplaced or wasted youth and existential anguish are too often revisited. They’re accompanied by a lack of intensity along with lots of garden analogies and weather metaphors. A few resemble the self-indulgent verse of adolescents using clichéd phrases like “tear-stained pillows” and “You leave me speechless.”

But despite the shortcomings, Tempest: Poems by Ryan Meyer is worth the read for a handful of jaw-droppers that provide personal poetic epiphanies. 

 

#books #bookworm #twitterbooks

#newbooksnetwork #goodreads #amreading #readingcommunity

#booklovers #newfiction #readers #read

#PoetryCommunity #poetry #poems

 

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text 2021-02-07 08:59
Nowhere days
Nowhere days.
..and it's raining.
 
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review 2021-01-25 01:44
BOOK OF LONGING by Leonard Cohen
Book of Longing - Leonard Cohen

Poems where the author looks back on his past and his current life and is not happy where he is. Some poems rhyme. Some are verse.

 

I found most of these poems and drawings depressing. I did like Alexandra Leaving and Boogie Street.

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text 2020-10-08 11:23
Reading progress update: I've read 188 out of 2016 pages.
Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works - MacDonald P. Jackson (Editor), John Jowett (Editor), John Lavagnino, V. Wayne,Gary Taylor,Thomas Middleton

The Meeting of Gallants: War, Famine and Pestilence walk into a tavern...

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