4 out of 4 stars
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Potpourri: Don’t Call it Poetry, by Rosalyn Rita Nicholas, begins by quoting Ecclesiastes 3:1 from the King James Version of the Bible. It states, “To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Nicholas then proceeds to present her collection of poetry, grouped by different themes or seasons of life. In her introduction, she bravely admits that her poetry may not hit the standard set by poetry experts. She is content that it hits her standard of being honest and authentic. This is why she chooses to call her poetry “potpourri.”
The themes included were faith, liberty, youth, women, men, love, marriage, children, death, parents, friends, life, time, loneliness, and cynicism. The poems were varied in length, each capturing either reflections about different topics or significant moments in her own life or other’s lives. Her informal style was soothing. Her reflections and conclusions were deep. One of my favorite reflections was found in the section about faith. In a piece that is almost a prayer to God, the poem “Tribute” states, “I regret my gift’s so very small / But, alas, my self is all I have.” The author reveals the diversity of her skills by including different literary devices and styles. “As I Stood” uses alliteration, as it is densely saturated with words using the s sound. In “Revenge,” the author chooses to write the word depthless vertically, one letter per line, adding a visual component to the description of how incalculably deep the ocean is.
During the commercial breaks of a hockey game, I was just beginning to read this collection of poems when the call came. You’ve probably experienced similar calls, or, unfortunately, you probably will. The call was about a family emergency, an emergency that ended with the sudden death of a family member. The precious person who died was a cousin of mine. He was a forty-year-old husband, father, grandson, son, brother, nephew, cousin, and friend.
Afterwards, it took me awhile to come back to this collection. I reviewed another book in the meantime. I just couldn’t read someone else’s heartfelt reflections, because my own emotions were still too raw. When I did finish reading this book, I found myself appreciating the author’s willingness to capture so many personal moments of her own life with words and then share those words with others. I believe I appreciated it all the more because of the recent tragedy our family had faced. The author’s vulnerability is my favorite part of this book. She explores her own heartbreak during her quest for love, intimate thoughts and feelings about her relationship with her parents, and intense emotion-provoking scenes of death. Her vulnerability is accentuated by the span of time that is covered. The growth in the maturity of the author is painted by the poems, as she wrote them over many years. Her transparency aided me in my own grieving process.
This book appeared to be professionally edited. I found only a few minor errors, some of which could be interpreted as intentional rule-breaking in the name of art. The only thing that I didn’t like is a matter of personal preference. In the poem, “Sounds,” the word sound is used repetitively for effect. Due to the longer length of the poem and the number of times this word was used, I found it a bit tedious to read. Otherwise, I have no complaints.
I award this book of “potpourri” 4 out of 4 stars. The minor errors were not enough of a problem to deduct a star. Nicholas has made writing poetry a lifelong endeavor. Her authenticity permeates her poetry and challenges the reader to do some reflecting of his or her own. I recommend this book to those who enjoy absorbing wisdom won through facing life’s good and bad terrain. As a word of caution, sensitive readers may want to skip the section on death, though some may find it cathartic.
Potpourri, Don't Call it Poetry
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