Expressions by Jamaal Watkins


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Watkins offers a debut collection of short poems on love, life, and the joy of Christian faith.

In a short, introductory essay, the author freely uses emojis, capitalization, and broad references to express the excitement he finds in his religion: “When Yahweh gracefully, mercifully, and lovingly gives us freedom we MUST align our minds….I think, therefore I am. :)” The first poem, “Alone,” will take readers by surprise as it shifts from the introduction’s almost-childlike tone to a somber, reflective one: “Smoke without fire / within a breezeless wind / A universe created without stars.” This serious atmosphere extends through the first of 10 short poems, creating an expectation for a dark, thoughtful collection: “Meditative contemplation / is like a cocoon / Being alive / is like an analogy.” As the collection progresses, however, Watkins moves the focus back to the strength, love, and excitement of his faith: “I am now re-breaking / and this time I’m being set / within the word of the great I AM.” This shift also represents a departure from some of the earlier poems’ more original ideas, as he begins to rely heavily on the clichés and standard imagery of Christian praise and worship, portraying God as a light in the darkness and as a rock that withstands the trials of everyday life. Watkins’ wordplay also regresses, offering winking puns that feel forced and bring little to the subject matter: “However if we truly learn our lessons / then our shoulders will have less on.” The last 20 pages offer haiku, with many serving as vehicles for advice or proverbs: “First make a mistake / Then, meditate your mistakes / Apply the lessons.” These shorter poems also suffer from wildly shifting tones, moving from deeply romantic to outright jocular far too quickly to let overarching themes or larger insights develop. The author seems to want to show his wide range by mixing the playful with the serious, but in the end, this strategy only takes him away from the mode in which he’s strongest.

A compilation built around puns and familiar Christian platitudes, with some surprisingly dark and intimate exceptions

Pub Date: June 29th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5347-2374-0
Page count: 78pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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