THE SKY AND THE SEA by Kevin J. Johnson

THE SKY AND THE SEA

Poetry and Prose
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A slim but powerful debut collection of poetry exploring loss and longing.

An intensely personal sadness fuels this debut work, which often paints a nebulous, abstract scene of an endless struggle between two opposing forces. “Muscles tire, and arms grow weary, / but the devil stokes the fire again, / inciting the fury, breeding the sin. / In agonizing conflict they rise again.” Again and again, the narrator is left feeling abandoned and alone. The author’s language is full of religious imagery about the meek’s burdens, and sometimes the verse feels so mournful that death becomes “the cocoon / That becomes the butterfly.” Such a bleak point of view has the potential to become tiring, and there are moments when the poems portray sorrow in language that feels simplistic. For example, the first four lines of “The 10:00 PM News” are “Murder. / Murder. / Death. / Murder,” and the following, equally sparse lines seem more gimmicky than revelatory. That said, there’s much that the author does right in this collection, which also includes two prose-poem parables. He seems particularly interested in the limits of language, and deeply preoccupied with what’s been said before. On the theme of longing, the narrator yearns not only for someone, but for some way to express himself. The author’s imagery on this topic excels; at one point, the narrator states that using words is “like trying / to paint squares on a ball.” In the end, the collection’s strongest language is its most personal, as when the author writes about losing “[t]hat desire to rise / above fear.” This is not a cheerful book; it doesn’t try to wrap things up neatly, and there’s no forced happiness or false transcendence. Instead, the work unabashedly explores the nature of fading—whether it’s talking about a relationship or one’s mind—and it gives sad truths their due with clarity and grace.

A strong book of poems about what it means to have and what it means to lose.

Pub Date: July 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1481766449
Page count: 70pp
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Program: Kirkus Indie
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