A spirited but uneven volume of poems about romance.

INNER BUTTERFLIES

A debut collection of poetry explores the many flavors of love.

Almost everyone can relate to the confusing cocktail of excitement and pain that comes from romance. As Toth writes in one poem, “my emotions; broken glass / my tears; liquid fire.” Such is the pitch of this volume of verse, which documents some of the many impulses and aggravations inspired by heartache. The book is divided into three sections: the Sour, the Savory, and the Sweet. Each comes with its own pleasures and dissatisfactions. The ironically named “happy” is found in the Sour section: “bullets / you fired at me / struck / just how you wanted them / right through / my heart / and it gave me a sense / of lust.” A few pages later comes the one-line “cycle of love”: “create then destroy.” The Savory section includes the economical “jealous”: “love is endless / and infectious / love; / restless / and out of all people / it made you jealous.” The poems in the Sweet portion strike a more conciliatory tone. The grateful narrator of “universe” admits “you found a place for me even / if i didn’t know i had one / thank you.” The next poem—titled just with a smiling emoticon, “:))))”—is as begrudgingly earnest as it is self-aware: “if it’s cliché / i don’t wanna hear it / but i love you.” The teenage author comes from the Rupi Kaur school of poetry. She writes in free verse, generally without punctuation or capitalization, giving the poems the feel of dashed off social media posts. They tend not to make an argument so much as simply offer an image or feeling—and often one without much complexity. The first poem, “he’s evil,” reads in its entirety: “his lips are sour / and his spiky hair / made from knifes / that cut deep into her soul / and he left his mark.” The poems are accompanied by simple, uncredited, hand-drawn illustrations: a sun, a bolt of lightning, a hand holding a rose. Toth succeeds in communicating the rawness of love and anger. But even within the world of Instagram poetry, there are books that display a bit more craft.

A spirited but uneven volume of poems about romance.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-72832-252-0

Page Count: 117

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

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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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