A sprawling collection, light on concrete specifics, that intriguingly lays out a dance of seduction in all of its...

ARCHING OVER

COLLECTED COLLECTIONS OF GRAPHIC POETRY

K.’s (Stoner’s Bone of Contention, 2013, etc.) collection of erotic poetry offers a cavalcade of love affairs, focusing on the narrator’s moment-to-moment fantasies and experiences.

Instead of detailing the peaks and valleys of one particular relationship, K. uses graphic language to focus readers’ attention on the body parts, sexual satisfaction, and the dominance and submission of a series of different lovers. In these verses, the present seduction is all that exists; nostalgia is largely nonexistent, and anticipation matters only in relationship to the conquest that is about to take place—if the narrator’s lover follows her explicit instructions: “We will neck and pet / swooning and ardent / whispering appreciation. / Desire will drive us / to the brink / and self-satisfaction / will slide us over it.” Notions of love are left out and, with them, the darker sides of love, such as regret and rejection. The poet’s chief concerns are pleasures happening now or in the immediate future, reflected in the ubiquitous present tense, which cumulatively gives readers the sense that thousands of fantasies are unfolding simultaneously. The poems mention no names, nor do they give a clear sense of recurring partners, lending them an anonymous, impersonal quality. They also liberally use the second-person point of view, again indicating an indiscernible number of lovers. It’s hard not to be impressed by how much time and fervent energy the narrator devotes to these romps; in one poem, she describes herself as a vessel for passion rather than its source: “I’m not a giver or a taker. / I’m a transducer, a conducive element / ... / Sensual powers pass to me / and through me / ...not from me / Empty like a mirror when no one’s there.” Not coincidentally, artists often provide similar explanations when discussing their inspiration.

A sprawling collection, light on concrete specifics, that intriguingly lays out a dance of seduction in all of its conceivable steps.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482683462

Page Count: 150

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2013

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A volume of ambitious and engaging poems.

THE POWER OF THE TELLING

COLLECTED 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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