A compellingly emotional collection.

DRESS WHITES

POETRY

A debut book of earthy, elegiac poetry.

In this work, Loftus draws on imagery from the natural environment to paint a picture of his speaker’s turbulent inner life and the calming hum of his surroundings. In three parts, he presents scenes in which the speaker faces not only nature, but history—be it his own or humanity’s—in instances of daily life: “At the bookstore / in the discard bin / among the sonnets, / it occurred to me: / I missed her.” Moments of vulnerability punctuate the poems, whether it’s a feeling that catches the speaker by surprise or when a sparrow tries relentlessly to survive: “I heaped seeds around / her clutching feet. Absurdly, / you might think”; “her prescient eye still / turned toward mine, / her silent mouth / singing to my bones.” However, Loftus is doing something other than merely pointing out the things that surround his speaker. By extracting the details that make up the big picture, the author comments on the interconnectedness of social and natural life. His poems evoke the greater romantic lyric, in which a landscape becomes the mind and the poem, a psycho-geographical description. Using maritime allusions, the author hints at the changing symbolic function of water as it relates to aging: “the natural wet / of water / it one day will press, / but glimmering wet, / adolescent, / a thing that knows no / lover yet.” Although poets have mined similar subject matter for centuries, Loftus gives it a brief update, with original line breaks, self-reflexive use of pronouns, and titles that launch his lines of inquiry from the highest peaks: “Every word he rhymed between / slippery purple carbon sheets / so not just he or I would see / but all would know his splendor.” Ultimately, the author offers readers a poetic climate that builds momentum until it finally reaches the present and understanding.  

A compellingly emotional collection.

Pub Date: March 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-981550-18-0

Page Count: 126

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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