Official Review: Scars of Apollo by Robin Williams

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Official Review: Scars of Apollo by Robin Williams

Post by esp1975 » 25 Aug 2019, 19:38

[Following is an official review of "Scars of Apollo" by Robin Williams.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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One of my personal goals this year is to read more poetry. This goal came from reading Carolyn Forche’s memoir What You Have Heard is True. It reminded me of how much I love the way poets understand and use language. They put words together in ways the rest of us would never think of and create amazing works of beauty in the process.

One of the things that drew me to Scars of Apollo by Robin Williams was the description of the book having two parts. The “scars” section discusses trauma, heartbreak, and loss. The “Apollo” section talks about healing, recovery, and acceptance. Both sections deal with mental health, though in different ways.

When I first picked up the book, I quickly read it all the way through and just experienced it. I paid almost no attention to anything other than the words and the form of the words on the page. It was a beautiful experience. I then went back and read it a second time with a more critical eye.

The poems in this book are mostly free verse, though there are a few poems that follow a strict rhyme scheme. This book plays with the form of the poetry on the page. Alignment changes often from poem to poem, and sometimes within the poem itself. Some words drop from the end of a line, written vertically to draw the reader’s eye down. This playing with the physical form of the poems, along with the illustrations that accompany many of the poems, adds a visual element to the experience of reading the poetry.

Oftentimes, that kind of visual experience is created to hide the fact that the poem itself is not a carefully crafted work of art. But that is not the case here. Just about every poem in the collection could be read aloud and have full effect on the listener.

The weakest poems in the collection were those that veered away from the poet’s direct experience and instead were reactions to other things going on in the world.

Not every poem is titled, but those that are have the titles at the end of the poem in italics, almost like one last line that adds to the meaning of what you just read.

My favorite thing about this book is the way it references itself, to help the reader understand the path of healing. Take this poem from early in “scars”
“A spoonful of sugar a day
does not make you sweeter;
you’re still a monster,
just with a gentler bite before you kill.
- oh how you fooled me”

The second poem in “Apollo” refers directly back to it.
“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,
but the medicine won’t cure your heartache,
especially not since you picked up the wrong
- drugs won’t heal your heart,
trust me.

These references tie the two parts of the book together and help the reader understand that even as the poet moved into “Apollo”, the “scars” were not gone. But they were healing.

I rate Robin William’s Scars of Apollo three out of four stars. This book came very close to four stars as the poems really did speak to me. But the poems I referenced that felt like they were about the world broke my immersion and seemed to be more about making a political statement than sharing the poet’s personal experience. In addition, though I rarely care about punctuation in poetry as long as each poem has internal consistency, there were a number of poems where the punctuation was not consistent.

Scars of Apollo, like many poetry books, does not tell a cohesive story, but it does leave you with a feeling of having been on a journey with the poet, in this case, a journey of recovery. Robin Williams dedicates this book “To the warriors”. I have no doubt she is one herself.

Scars of Apollo
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Post by Mbrooks2518 » 27 Aug 2019, 01:15

I'm not a big fan of poetry, and these don't seem like ones I would enjoy, so I'll pass. Great review, though!

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Post by Ben Moore » 27 Aug 2019, 01:34

Nice review! I always think it’s tricky to review a book of poetry! I haven’t read much modern poetry recently so I’ll make a note of this one!
'All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling' - Oscar Wilde
'Am reading more Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod' - Noël Coward

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Post by InStoree » 27 Aug 2019, 04:44

I continue to postpone my approach to poetry because of language barriers. I am afraid that I will lose my essence. Thank you for quoting from the book. It doesn't seem to be a tricky English. Your review gave me the courage to break the ice. Thank you!
Through reading, I can travel from ancient times to the distant future, from factual events to... beyond imagination.

Through writing, I have the chance to shift into a chameleon.

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Post by LinaMueller » 27 Aug 2019, 06:19

I would say you caught the spirit of the book perfectly in your review . Very nice, esp1975. :tiphat:
Heart! We will forget him!
You an I, tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging.
I may remember him!

Emily Dickinson

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Post by Wyland » 27 Aug 2019, 06:20

I like how the themes of the theme on mental health discussed by the poems. It can be an incurable disease if not handled from the right perspective. Thanks for the enjoyable review.

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Post by Aniza Butt » 27 Aug 2019, 06:38

The poems you referred to in your review are just beautiful. Although I rarely read poetry still am going to add it to my want to read list.
Thanks for a comprehensive review :tiphat:
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Post by esp1975 » 27 Aug 2019, 12:12

@Mbrooks2518 - I think poetry is even more personal than fiction. You are either going to instantly respond to it and love it, or not. Thanks for reading my review, even though you aren't a poetry fan.

@Ben Moore - This is my second review of a poetry book. I agree they're a little harder to review because there's no real plot or characters to talk about. So I am much more likely to include poems, or snippets of poems, in my review to help illustrate what I like and don't like about the books.

@InStoree - I completely understand. The only other language I speak even kind of well enough to try and read a poetry book is Spanish. And that's mostly that I can read the words and get a feel for the meter and measure, but probably not pick up on anywhere near all the meaning. This one is fairly straight forward. I don't remember there being a lot of double meaning in anything. I think the message is more powerful because of the simplicity of it, so it might be a very good poetry book to start with.

@LinaMueller - Thank you for the wonderful compliment.

@Wyland - The theme of mental health is handled very well in this book. I really appreciate that it doesn't go away and is still looked at frankly in the recovery section.

@Aniza Butt - I found this to be a really powerful book of poetry. I thought almost all of the poems were beautiful. I hope you do pick it up and have a similar response.

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Post by RoxieReads » 27 Aug 2019, 18:25

Although I do not read poetry often, I really do enjoy poetry that has to do with mental health. I think that having the book split into two sections is a unique and interesting idea.

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Post by gen_g » 27 Aug 2019, 22:17

I do love a good collection of poetry, and for the most part, this seems to be it. Is there a reason why the author used the term "Apollo" to refer to healing, recovery and acceptance? Still, thank you for the review.

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Post by esp1975 » 28 Aug 2019, 10:12

@RoxieReads - This is a great collection for following the poet's journey through the depths of depression and into recovery.

@gen_g - The poet did not mention why she chose "Apollo", but my guess would be because Apollo was the sun god, so after every night, the sun rises on a new day.

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Post by Dentarthurdent » 28 Aug 2019, 12:04

Hey, esp1975!
I like how you've given examples to better explain your points. Additionally, you have a keen eye and an interesting perspective regarding the purpose of the words' arrangement, beyond simply being aesthetic. It's a shame that the introspective poems were unmoving.
Great review!
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Post by Bookworm177 » 28 Aug 2019, 16:31

I love poetry and there's one thing I know is that poetry js about connecting with your feeling. I felt that with this book.

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Post by kdstrack » 28 Aug 2019, 20:23

This is an excellent explanation of the set of poems. Your explanation of the poems was insightful and helps readers understand the author's message. Great review.

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Post by Shrabastee » 29 Aug 2019, 02:41

I feel moved, both by your review and the book in question. I find it much difficult to review poetry than any other kind of book. You have not only done that well, but also let us have a taste of it. Thanks so much for this amazing review.

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