Acceptable, if flawed, poetry that nonetheless would shine in a spoken-word setting.
At first glance, Bells’s verse seems amateurish and unreflective. There are few discernable line breaks, no rhyme schemes and no stanzas–none of the conventions of poetry. The text is center-aligned, no matter the length, a formatting pattern that gives the impression of laundry strewn over each page’s central axis. She cleaves only to the safest of idioms, with predictable metaphors like â€œWisdom is richer than gold.” Her word choice is sometimes odd–it’s unclear, in a set of poems grouped together as a â€œFamily Tribute,” why she calls her sister â€œinferior.” Further, her wisdom occasionally borders on tautology–â€œI am who I am, because God says I am.” Some of her sentences are vague to the point of senseless–â€œWe are joined in our pursuit of destiny because it was innate.” And her gender politics are conservative–â€œI’ve learned to trust in the natural order, that men pursue women,” she claims, continuing, â€œDon’t meet them half-way or go Dutch on a date.” However, these sins become less grave when the reader realizes that her poems aren’t necessarily meant to be read in book form. Many of Bells’s pieces feature powerful, pulsing internal rhymes that, while lost on the page, burst forth when read aloud. â€œRicher than Gold,” jumps and throbs when spoken, driven forward by the repeated â€œor” sound–poor, anymore, war, folklore, for, reservoir. (â€œOr” is the French word for gold–an inter language pun that, whether Bells is aware of it or not, adds semantic depth to her verse.) Many of her other poems–â€œDreamers” and â€œDropping Your Net” in particular–possess a vibrant rhythmic quality that, again, only shows itself when the poems are orally delivered.
Verse that is better heard than seen.