A provocative and important collection.

I Have Nothing to Say, but I'm Going to Say It Anyway

THOUGHTS, QUESTIONS AND NONSENSE

Debut author Skoby offers short, informal insights on living respectfully in the world.

This book’s self-deprecating title doesn’t do justice to its contents. Although the author’s pithy thoughts cover a vast range of topics, few could be considered nonsense; in fact, he explores some of the most vital issues of our time, such as compassion, consumerism, service, and slowing down to really see the world. A slight cheekiness runs through the book, however, as many statements read as provocations, or even as koans, such as “Be careful of those who only see the literal word,” and “Life is full of contradictions….No it isn’t!” Perhaps Skoby’s title is meant to incite doubt in order to open up some space for readers’ own experiences—but this isn’t a difficult or pretentious book. The author uses diverse literary forms to relay his ideas: aphorisms, very short stories, and rhyming and acrostic poems, among others. Some of these phrases could be cross-stitched and hung as quaint samplers: “The fragrance of a flower is beautiful; but the sweetest part is the nectar within. Such is the splendor of a friend.” Others ask readers to stop and reflect: “When I first saw a revolving door, I saw a young man enter, and an elderly man come out. I thought: This is one of the secrets of life!” Still others call for actions: “Teaching my child about mistrust was the most painful injustice of my life. Why must we teach it? Let us stand against it.” There’s a Zen quality to this book, and although the author doesn’t use that or any related term, he does speak of the need for quiet and deliberate observation; for example, one entire page says only: “Silence speaks.” He also broaches the inescapable yet troublesome notion that we all must live among one another: “Your inner conflict, becomes our conflict. This is so, because you live among us.” Spare sketches and drawings by several illustrators, including some that seem to be just a few brush strokes, add to the book’s beauty and apparent simplicity.

A provocative and important collection.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-9183-2

Page Count: 203

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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