A sprawling poetry debut that touches on everything from heartbreak to hobbits.
In his first collection of poetry, author Bedian (A Long Cold Lonely Winter, 2013, etc.) draws on his personal experiences of mental illness and spiritual seeking to examine a vast array of subjects. Bedian himself states, “[I] simply published the text of poetry I had written without editing,” and the book reflects that laissez-faire approach. Some poems are deeply personal accounts of flawed relationships, while others are pointed political criticisms on topics including the Sochi Olympics and civil rights. Still more surprising entries crop up as well, such as a whimsical series on food and even a handful of poems about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Bedian sets almost every one of these disparate subjects into a straightforward scheme of rhyming couplets, which he often packs with clever wordplay and rhythmic phrasing. The author’s strongest lines intertwine those structural elements with keen thematic insights, as with one poem that opens: “The errant hasty cavalcade of cavalry in splendid taste, / Parading shades of chivalry, a macho parody of waste.” However, the sophistication of Bedian’s verse varies as much as its content does. For every tightly crafted poem, there’s another that seems sloppy and unoriginal in comparison; e.g.: “I hadn’t been with a woman in years, / All I had left was a lifetime of tears.” In those weaker poems, Bedian’s rigid adherence to rhyming couplets lends his work an amateurish quality, and the lack of rhythmic and structural variation grows grating as the book progresses. While the author’s commitment to leaving his work unedited results in an unusual—and, at times, exciting—degree of thematic variety, it also allows these less successful entries to distract from the stronger ones. Ultimately, the collection feels diluted and unfocused. Still, Bedian’s energy and enthusiasm remain palpable throughout, and his debut contains a number of insightful poetic gems for those readers patient enough to search them out.
Thoughtful, sincere, and full of witty phrasing but sorely in need of a thorough edit.