A collection of legal poetry that’s unusual but doesn’t sing.


Hopkins (Starting and Managing a Nonprofit Organization, 2017, etc.) offers verses on an underpraised area of the law in this collection.

“Welcome to the world of nonprofit law, / summarized here in a form loosely poetical; / Those with deep allegiance to this law won’t, / I hope, find these renditions heretical.” So begins the first in Hopkins’s cycle of verses. Lawyers who represent nonprofit organizations are similar to regular lawyers—yes, they do get paid—but, as in any other area of the law, there are a few things that are specific to their trade. The title poem, for example, expresses the woes of nonprofit organizations who apply for tax-exempt status, only to fall victim to the Internal Revenue Service’s “commerciality doctrine,” which can deny nonprofit status to organizations “operating in ways that are unduly commercial.” “Charity Begins in the Tome” discusses the legal definition of charity, a term that’s central to nonprofits’ identities. Other poems explain and ruminate on such issues as the same-state rule, or bifurcation, or private inurement: “Consider the doctrine of private inurement; / It is so ponderous and anachronistic. / With its emphasis on net earnings and shareholders, / The doctrine is magnificently atavistic.” Hopkins generally writes in an ABCB rhyme scheme, although he pays little attention to meter, giving his verses a halting, nursery rhyme quality. They do succeed on a semantic level, however, and readers will learn quite a bit about the topics at hand, if they so desire. Hopkins displays an endearing, if goofy, sense of humor, and is well aware of how esoteric the material is: “These offerings are more like inside jokes – how rude! – / than one’s usual and customary poem.” Even so, a poem called “Ode to the Form 990” should ideally still work at the poetic level. Had this collection been a bit less mannerist, it might have been as entertaining to read as it must have been to write.

A collection of legal poetry that’s unusual but doesn’t sing.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-5042-9

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2018

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A volume of ambitious and engaging poems.



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.

A volume of ambitious and engaging poems.

Pub Date: April 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-939353-36-8

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Sturdy, exuberant verse.

Defining Atlas

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.

Sturdy, exuberant verse.

Pub Date: March 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5035-4785-8

Page Count: 106

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2015

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