4 out of 4 stars
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Published by Sunstone Press in 2019, Potpourri, Don’t Call it Poetry by Rosalyn Rita Nicholas is a wonderful collection of poems that does justice to its title. It is a lyrical medley of around 70 poems grouped on 15 major themes ranging from faith and liberty to time, loneliness, or cynicism.
Addressing those who usually shy away from poetry, the author candidly confesses that “poetry is as popular as a rattlesnake.” Her poetry is not meant to be in vogue or praised by literary experts. She writes for herself and hopes to touch people’s hearts through the honesty and authenticity of her poems. I could feel the sincerity in her lines that were written in free verse and varied in terms of length and structure. With a deliberate disregard for punctuation, the poet prefers to give the reader enough freedom to find the right cadence of every poem.
Each section of the book includes at least one poem and as many as eleven poems. The introductory section, On Faith, is mainly dominated by feelings of gratitude to God (“Biloxi Beach”) and peace of mind given by the power of faith (“Relativity of Light”). However, the lyrical voice also turns to a sort of pantheism when searching for God in nature (“Between Sea Level and Santa Fe”). My favorite two poems in this section are “God, Give Me the Strength Not to Hate” and “Tribute”. If the former turns into an honest appeal for God to help her be strong and humble, the latter revolves around her uncertainty of ever living up to God’s expectations.
The two following sections, On Liberty and On Youth, have only one poem each, but they are both illustrative of their themes. “Voices of Liberty” praises America for being a land of immigrants and interculturalism, whereas “Que Sera” focuses on youthful dreams of a transformative future. Apart from promoting gender equality, the poems in the section On Women (“Who I Am”, “Self Portrait”, “Pathfinder”, and “I Had No Shoes”) reflect a woman’s struggle to find her own voice and identity in a mostly patriarchal society. Lines like those in “Pathfinder” are representative in this respect: “Awaken to realize you now must fight for identity/ And a rightful place in society where you belong/ As a contributor, a nurturer, a pathfinder/ A woman whose greatest discovery is learning/ How wonderful she can be just having faith in herself.” Even the poems dedicated to men are, in fact, projections of a woman’s love (“Not Just Me”, “Ever Blended”), longing (“Patience”, “Rhythm of the Blues”), or disappointment (“I Know People”, “Soon”).
From my perspective, the best poems in the book are those in the sections On Love and On Parents. The poet skillfully uses a series of various devices meant to express the different facets of love. In the poem “Is This Love?”, rhetorical questions make us wonder about the very essence of love. “If Only” is based on repetitions that create a whirlwind of emotions springing from regret and nostalgia: “I wish that I had known/ She loved me/ No, I only wish now she had known/ I loved her.” “If You Loved Me” relies on an antithesis between the paradisiacal image of shared love and the harsh reality of unrequited affection. The poems that speak of spiritual love and of a union transcending the limits of time and space (“The Welcoming”, “Worship”, and “Offering Salvation”) are genuinely beautiful.
Without a doubt, the poem that truly touched my heart was “Flood of Feelings”, an honest and moving confession about her relationship with her parents. Always trying to get their attention and approval, she had to find her refuge elsewhere: “Robbed of my youth/ I lived in books and poetry/ I did not select solitude/ It was all I had.” With the wisdom given by maturity, the poet understands that her parents actually loved her in their own way. Her past experiences make her generously share her personal credo: “In the end, all that ever matters is whether there is love.”
In the last sections (On Life, On Time, On Loneliness, and On Cynicism), the lyrical voice acquires a much more meditative tone, reflecting on the relativism of truth and history (“The Body of History”) or the ephemerality of our lives (“Starry Heavens”). Visual and auditory images revive both the beauty and sadness of an effervescent world (“Sounds” or “Honey Bee”). Last but not least, I was impressed by the intertextual dimension of some poems. For example, “Perseverance’s Soliloquy” is inspired by John Donne’s “No Man Is an Island”. Similarly, the parallel between Man and God in the poem “He Is” poses the same philosophical questions as those in Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Man.”
Exquisitely edited, this collection of poetry definitely deserves 4 out of 4 stars. On the one hand, people who love poetry will find it enchanting for the variety of themes it approaches, the metaphors it employs, or the unexpected changes of rhythm. On the other hand, those who would normally shy away from poetry will be lured by the genuine authenticity of the lyrical confession.
Potpourri, Don't Call it Poetry
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