From Bane, a debut collection of emotional love poems.
Over the course of more than 200 pages of poems, arranged alphabetically, the narrator professes enamored feelings for a beloved, expresses gratitude for the love they share, and details the ache of absence. These devotional love poems are written in first-person rhyming quatrains with a hypnotic, rhythmic quality. In an idyllic, magical landscape bordered by waves and home to rainbows and moonbeams, the beloved is compared to many forms: a star, an angel, a missing puzzle piece, a rose: “In the distance is the sunset, / Colored in pastels of red and blue. / This mystery on the horizon / Made me think of loving you.” This bubble of romantic enchantment is a world where dancing is encouraged, memories are always good, and a pot of gold is discovered in every kiss. The love felt by the narrator and the beloved is a fated and forever love. “Fate brought us together / When we never expected to be. / A kiss so tender on a blissful night— / The beginning of you and me,” begins the poem “Forever Us.” In this space, love conquers all and is the key to unlocking new blessings daily. Spirituality also plays a role, and God makes frequent appearances: “The treasure in every day / Is to cherish all that’s real: / The touch of God within us / And His blessings that we feel.” As familiar as this lovey-dovey language will be to anyone who has fallen hard for a seemingly perfect partner, the repetitive nature of the rhyming scheme and the constant recurrence of the same symbols (heaven’s door, rainbows, sunshine, dreams) grow tiresome. These are trite poems with little of the grit and sacrifice and scars inherent in love lived in reality. Excellent physical descriptions—“Your coat is woven with golden threads / From strands of angel’s hair,”—are the highlights of the collection.
A seemingly endless book of nearly identical poems on romantic idealism.
A collection of poetry focuses on everyday beauty and wonder.
Over the course of 50 poems with straightforward titles, retired high school English teacher Hathwell (Between Dog and Wolf, 2017, etc.) explores the world around him. Nature is a touchstone of his poetry. In “Poplar,” he expertly describes the titular tree “catching a breeze, flutter sage and silver wings” while in “Sunflower,” he lingers on the “wide blank face” of the “saddest flower.” The author also showcases culture in his poems. “Fred’s Girl” is a propulsive ode to the Fred Astaire–Paulette Goddard duet in the film Second Chorus, and “Sunday at the Symphony” captures the ethereal experience of live classical music. But the poems aren’t limited to the author’s immediate surroundings. A visit to the Spanish Steps, where Keats died in 1821, is the subject of “Readiness Is Everything,” which encourages readers to “imagine the world without you.” Hathwell plays with humor in “Dust Is Winning,” about the futile fight to keep things clean, and shows his cynical side in “Red Dress,” which describes the “ruby radiance” of an ensemble depicted in advertising. The act of writing is another recurring theme in this collection. “Song” depicts a successful writing day, in which “I rise from my desk, / Majestic, and I dance,” while “Sure Thing” warns readers “that language is prepared to lie / When you ask it to.” Quiet moments are also rich material for the poet. Throughout, he matches his message to the pacing of the poem, creating an immersive experience for readers. In “Finding Myself in the Morning,” readers sink into Hathwell’s serene, solitary scene where he can finally “not wonder / who is speaking, or what comes next.” In “Ten O’Clock,” the audience can sense the descent into a “deep, forgiving sleep.” The one flaw of this collection is its breadth. Because everything from Astaire to flora is fair game, the individual poems don’t always flow from one to the next, and transitions can be jarring.
Like the demigod from which it takes its name, Defining Atlas is a durable, uplifting volume.
A strong current of self-affirmation, self-love, and self-confidence runs through this work, and readers will come away feeling their spirits improved. We feel some of this current in the clever “Limited”; Michaels takes the titular subject and turns it on its head: “I’m new, but I’m old / Not limited beyond my means and methods / But limited because I’m special / Special beyond the heavens and everything that surrounds me / That I’m among…limited.” Elsewhere in “From the ashes…I am,” he sings a hard-won song of renewal and rebirth: “I am victory in its rawest form / I am hope that never conform / I am the will, the drive, and the truth / I am like everyone, like you.” But Michaels does not hoard specialness or victory for himself; he wants it for his reader too, and in “Wake Up!” he urges us on toward a bright future: “There’s something good here for you / Your purpose can never be defined by just one blue / Your destiny awaits you.” Underpinning Michaels’ stirring message is a strong faith in God, whose presence infuses many of the poems here: “But I always thank God for the latter / For the strength and will it takes / Shines so bright / Shines so right.” Michaels often adopts a loose scheme of rhyming couplets, and this decision leads to one of the book’s few weaknesses. Too often, the poet picks awkward or odd pairings; e.g., “And if I could become a perfect saint / I would make believers out of the ones who say they ain’t” and the “you/blue” couplet mentioned above. But such missteps are infrequent, and they don’t dim the warm light that emanates from Michaels’ fine volume.