Polo Campos’ debut collection of poetry and musings offers a message of love and encouragement.
The author extols inspirational virtues in these 129 poems and spiritual reflections, which explore some common themes. Angels, for example, appear in several; “Angels Around You” describes them as protective beings in people’s lives. The poems also mention God several times, but don’t highlight a particular religion. In works such as “God,” the poet aims to present spirituality in a nonjudgmental light: “Because your God and my God are one, / And your faith and my faith are the same. / God is love, no matter what we call him.” Some of the more verbose works take the form of a single, long stanza, and read like conversations, such as “The Song of Life,” which begins with an awkward line break: “I wrote a song the other day, and the title is ‘The / Day I met You I never thought,’ (in Spanish).” However, many of the poems in this ample volume seem hackneyed, and sound as if they could be part of a motivational speech; for example, in “A New Day,” the narrator sings the praises of self-reliance: “So you are the only one who is in charge / As the master of your journey.” Likewise, “One Day at a Time” urges readers to stop worrying, “go with the flow” and “enjoy the ride.” Overall, though, Polo Campos’ exuberant paean to love is not without merit. Readers searching for soothing lines about inner peace will find a plethora of good vibrations in this volume. In “Peace,” for instance, the narrator hopes that readers will “walk the secret paths of the spirit” to attain true peace. Fans of romantic fare, meanwhile, may relate to the love poems, which feel like song lyrics; in “Just In the Moment,” the narrator coos: “You are the sweetest melody in my heart. / You are the only one I need.”
Despite some mundane lines, readers of these poems may enjoy Polo Campos’ upbeat attitude about life.
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.
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.