3 out of 4 stars
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Shadows by William Stephen Edwards is a diverse collection featuring poetry about a range of topics, including love, relationships, illness, suffering, nature, seasons, spirituality, and war.
The book spans almost 300 pages, and Edwards is a poet who seems comfortable writing from different perspectives. In several of his poems such as "Black Beauty" and "We Were Soldiers,” Edwards shares poignant reflections on Vietnam, while"Hanna Blue" is a heartfelt message to his daughter. In others, he ventures into the spiritual and mythical, writing about Jesus, Hercules, and Xena.
The forms of poetry contained in the book are almost as varied as the topics Edwards writes about. Be it Middle English prose, free verse, or haiku, he is adventurous when it comes to style. The tone and themes of Edwards' poetry are reflective of the seasons in his life. As a veteran, his poems about the war express anger and remorse. During his career as a speech pathologist, the poems about patients are characterized by compassion, while the poems he writes about relationships convey joy, longing, and sorrow.
I particularly liked "Cradle," although the poem is a single stanza, it evoked both a visual and emotional response in me. Based on the title, one might assume the poem was about a baby's cradle or childhood, but instead, it literally described the anticipation of retiring to bed when weary. Edwards compared the movement of the sheet to a billowing parachute in a manner that I could visualize and found relaxing and soothing. Below is the final line of the poem:
"It sweeps away care with a gentle wind
And the darkness is a cradle once again."
On the other hand, I disliked the poems featuring forms of Middle English vocabulary. Although Edwards seemed partial to words such as "'ore” and “hie,” I noticed an editor's notes on a handful of the poems, questioning their use. In response, Edwards specified his choice of the Middle English word rather than replacing it.
Also, the punctuation is inconsistent from poem to poem. I realize that punctuation is sometimes intentionally omitted in poetry. However, if two stanzas are similarly formatted, and only one lacks punctuation, it seems more like an oversight and less intentional. Overall, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars. It will appeal to poetry lovers, especially those who enjoy eclectic collections. However, as the book contains profanity including a racial slur and sexual content, it is intended for a mature audience.
UPDATE FROM REVIEWER: Since this review was first published, the author has removed an ethnic slur that was included in a poem about Vietnam. I found no other offensive content; readers who initially passed on the book may wish to reconsider in light of this update.
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