Raw, affecting lyric from an assured poet.

Art of Mind III

THE EVOLUTION OF A TRILOGY

Poems covering love, life, heart and home.

Aidoo’s new multigenre collection of verse and images provides no introduction, instead dropping readers into the deep end of his fluid poetry. Readers don’t know what’s going to happen next, but that’s part of the fun in this lively, bursting compendium. Most of the book consists of poetry, a musical free verse that’s even better spoken aloud. The rest is respectable paintings from a variety of artists, including competent oil paintings, some of which depict scenes from Chicago. But the real draw is Aidoo’s poetry. The author has many talents, most impressive of which is his remarkable versatility. In the hands of a lesser poet, the range of topics—the joys of loving a large woman, the anticipation of waiting for a new video game, the beauty of the pop star Shakira—would feel forced or even absurd. But Aidoo seamlessly weaves these and more together in a gorgeous, unexpected tapestry. His ability to integrate pop-culture references into serious verse without seeming flip or too clever is truly impressive, calling to mind Michael Robbins’ work in Alien Vs. Predator (2004). Aidoo’s style is equally strong: Diction is conversational without being casual, easy without seeming lazy. He catches the rhythms of speech—no small feat. One of his best moments arrives in a late poem called “The Grievance”—“So the deceased can rejoice that they are forgotten for hours, days, or even weeks at a time. They’d want the flower-givers to keep on walking…and begin that work on their own headstones.”—in which he subtly evokes our odd ambivalence about death and dying, all in approachable, unpretentious language. This book is the last of a trilogy, but let’s hope Aidoo isn’t done yet.

Raw, affecting lyric from an assured poet.

Pub Date: March 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615694344

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Real Print for Real People

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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