Fontinel-Gibran has earned her poetic license.

POETIC LICENSE

'A DIVINE RIGHT TO WRITE' / POEMS AND EPIGRAMS

In a literary landscape littered with ponderous rhymes and too-confessional verse, it is a joy to come across a strong collection of light poetry, works that flit across the world’s brighter surfaces while only occasionally sneaking beneath to peek at darker depths.

Fontinel-Gibran’s slick, slim new collection is a mostly gratifying sequence of what one might call diversionary poetry that delights even as it defies the genre’s subtle pull toward more doleful themes. The sense that this is a happier verse experiment is confirmed early, in adjacent works entitled “The Blue Law” and “Officially Desserted.” The first is a celebration and origin story of the ice cream sundae. The second is simply an unbroken, page-long list of sweets, from Bananas Foster to Burnt Sugar Marzipan to Coconut Glamour Cake—mouthwatering. Other poems take up or touch upon the joys of gustation, among them “Fringe Benefits,” “The Danes’ Delight” and “Make the Coffee!” Yet Fontinel-Gibran by no means confines herself to culinary themes. “Don’t You Remember; How to Play Flag Football?” sings the joys of gym class: “Even girls play football in gymnasium class; dreaming of wearing one day perhaps an amber football mum on Homecoming night.” “Geoffrey Gopher Would!” playfully laments the rodent tearing up the front yard: “There were just, no way to convey to him, to stop digging up those fucking mounds.” In most of these pieces, Fontinel-Gibran writes in line-less prose poetry, a daring choice, the only drawback being that it sometimes lets the author slip into purple language, as in “The Lonely Number”: “It’s true, by way of separating out from all other organisms, physical objects and realities, the enlightened being grows into a specified, philosophical, regular ‘unit’ on an everyday basis, that ultimately reveals itself through being at peace and in harmony with all other aspects of existence.” This abstraction threatens to fall away into drivel. But there’s more fun than philosophizing in this volume, and it’s well worth the read.

Fontinel-Gibran has earned her poetic license.

Pub Date: April 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496902818

Page Count: 142

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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