3 out of 4 stars
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The Poems of Robin R. Rabii by Robin R. Rabii is a poetry collection that is simultaneously varied and unified. The central theme of this collection is connection, and it is expressed in a myriad of ways. Sometimes a poem shows the connection between two lovers; sometimes it shows the connection between a person and his/her nation. One of my favorites lines displays connection crossing a tough division: “I kissed a conservative today, and she kissed me liberally!” Many poems expose disconnection to highlight the need for a better alternative. These poems might show racial divisions, religious conflicts, war, or abuse of the environment. Whether showcased or strikingly absent, the theme is apparent in each and every poem.
In addition to being varied in how they present the theme, the poems in this collection seemed quite varied in style. Some rhymed or followed familiar rhythm patterns, and some were free verse. A few switched styles mid-poem. One of the things I love most about poetry is that it derives its power from not only what a poet says but also how he/she says it. When a poem’s style and tone start changing, I start asking myself whether such is deliberate or the author is merely confused or distracted. There are a few poems in this collection that, even though they show excellent artistry at times, feel distracted overall. It is as if multiple poems were mashed together to create a single poem that loses focus and lasts for pages and pages.
Like any excellent poet, Robin R. Rabii’s collection demands that the reader thinks about difficult subjects. The author does not shy away from topics like racism, homosexuality, religion, and sex. They are addressed frankly and powerfully, and the manner of address is often unexpected. In one poem, a metaphor of war is used to view parental love (and the sacrifices entailed therein). In another, plumbing is used to explain neighborly love. In a third, violent assault is the metaphor for humanity’s relationship to the environment. The unexpected metaphor is one of poetry’s most valuable tools to help readers see the world in new ways, and Robin Rabii uses it masterfully.
Regardless of the quality of the poems themselves, a long-winded preface and introduction really turned me off to the book before I even encountered the real meat of it. These beginning soliloquies were extremely wordy and far too long. Once I reached the end of the preface and found an introduction waiting for me, I questioned whether I even wanted to continue on to the poetry at all.
As I considered the rating and recommendation, I weighed the excellence of individual poems against the failings of the few that lost their impact by being too long and out of focus. I also had to consider the presence of sex and violence (tasteful, but possibly unsuitable for children). In the end, I’ve decided to rate The Poems of Robin R. Rabii 3 out of 4 stars. Any mature poetry lover might enjoy at least some of these poems, and even if you have to pick and choose, the majority of the poems in this collection are well worth reading.
The Poems of Robin R Rabii
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