4 out of 4 stars
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As we all know, haikus are originally Japanese poems that speak about nature and interacting with nature. For those who are not familiar with poetry or those who have never been to a literature class, traditional haikus structurally have three lines; they have five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second, and five syllables in the last. It is from this structure which is predominantly evident in haikus that Five seven five by Barton Johnson derives its title. The haikus in the book, however, divert from the common practice of writing haikus without a strict focus on rhyme or rhyme scheme by making sure the poems in it rhyme. The book has a total of 365 haikus arranged like daily entries in a journal or a diary. Most of the poems have a regular rhyme scheme, which is the most notable feature in the book.
I mostly love the idea with which this book has been written. Each poem has a message which you could reflect on (it is almost like, say, the daily motivation you could receive via an app, an email, or a text—only that this time around, it is in form of poetry.) You could read the book daily (reading a poem a day), or even read through randomly, as indicated in the preface.
The messages and themes in the book are relatable and thought-provoking, and some of them had a déjà vu effect on me. I relived some experiences I had had through some of the poems. Take the poem written in the entry of January 7. It speaks about a struggle with insomnia, where the persona battles with sleep until dawn; this has occasionally happened to me, too. Other themes featured in the poems are such as life, love, pain, dejection, and many others. They traverse both positive and negative themes without focusing too much on either, and some poems are also neutral.
On aesthetics, the book would get an eight out of ten. The rhyme scheme has been intricately developed, and this is noteworthy. This is because it is usually difficult to incorporate rhyme; after all, doing so limits the poet, and there may not be many words that fit the rhyme scheme. In this book, however, most poems have a naturally fitting rhyme scheme, but the rhyme in some poems looks forced or imposed in a way to me, for example, the poem written in the entry of January 1. I didn't understand what 'Bart' meant, and I felt it was 'forced' in there to rhyme it with 'start' and 'art'. I even tried checking out the meaning of 'Bart' on the internet but found none that could fit in the context. It may, however, be American slang or something.
Still focusing on the previous point, most of the poems only have end rhymes. This is a disappointment because I expected other rhyme types, too, but it still makes use of rhetorical questions, irony, sarcasm, and other literary styles.
The biggest disappointment that I have had in the book is the total lack of poem titles throughout the book. I always read titles first and then decide whether I should or should not read the poem, and this book is not an exception. I could have, in fact, skipped the whole book if it was not that I was supposed to review it. (How would I otherwise know if the poem is erotic or if it is about something I am not comfortable reading?)
Despite the lack of titles and my dissatisfaction with not finding other rhyme forms, the book deserves 4 out of 4 stars. Overall, it is a good read, and it has relatable topics. I am a poet, too, and I enjoy reading poems, so this book automatically interested me.
Lovers of poetry books (particularly haiku poems) that speak about day-to-day life lessons and interactions will love the book.
Five seven five
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