4 out of 4 stars
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Catacombs of the Heart by Mathieu Cailler is a collection of 72 love-centered poems. And while the pieces explore hidden places in the heart, not all of them focus on romantic love. Many of them concentrate on loving different types of people, like mothers and the homeless. Others bring out the joy in tender moments – appreciating peaceful time with a loved one or watching a little girl blow bubbles. The author reaches down into his own heart and draws up memories and sweet nostalgia.
I enjoy poetry, especially poems that extract memories and emotions through imagery. Additionally, I like exploring the uses of figurative language that make poems bright and alive. And while Cailler doesn't employ a varied set of figurative language, he does often and effectively use vivid imagery and powerful personification. Because the author creates such beauty through his words, I could not avoid gushing in my review just a bit. Forgive me, but check out this marvelous image-evoking quote from "Saturday Night in 1960s Harlem:"
"the trumpet awakened and a piano danced with it, twirled,
clutched the small of its back."
I think that's beautiful. It takes my breath. Can you hear the jazz? See it? Smell it? Feel it? I can. Now, enjoy this quote from "From a Letter Found in a Garage Sale Copy of The Sun Also Rises:"
"Then, I watched the
tide rise, and the
waves come in,
their salty bodies,
licking all the
Again, the imagery leaps off the page.
Traditionalists need to know that the poet writes most of this collection in either prose or list compositions. One poem's structure was new to me, and I liked it because the author used it so appropriately. In "Sixers vs. Lakers on a December Night in 1995," poetic line breaks are indicated by traditional slashes but are not followed. This format caused me to read more quickly than I typically would have, bringing to mind the rapid pace of a radio announcer’s calling of a game.
falls on this December night, but not loud enough to disturb
the game / in fact loud enough to muffle the sound of my
headphones, so I hope the storm pushes harder / the Lakers
were down by 14, but they are making a run / Van Exel
has swished back-to-back threes and made it a game"
I rate Catacombs of the Heart 4 out of 4 stars. The originality of many poems, both in format and theme, stuck with me well after I had finished the book. Additionally, the collection seems to be professionally edited. I discovered only one error, a typo that can be easily fixed, in the entire collection.
If you appreciate poetry that goes outside the walls of rhyme and tradition, I heartily recommend this book to you. The imagery evoked is captivating. Prospective readers should know that there is some profanity, but the book is not peppered with it. And while there are sexual situations, they are not coarse. Traditional lovers of poetry who don't want to try new styles would more than likely not enjoy this collection, so I would recommend looking elsewhere. If you don't think of yourself as a lover of poetry, but you do like reading about different perspectives on love and tender moments, I would suggest you give this collection a try. It may change your opinion on poetry itself.
Catacombs of the Heart
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