3 out of 4 stars
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Notes in the Key of Heartbreak is a book of poetry by Imani McGee-Stafford. McGee-Stafford is a current member of the Atlanta Dream-a WNBA team-and has branched out into the literary world to share her love of poetry. As a prelude to her first poem, the author uses a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “And in the end, we were all just humans…Drunk on the idea that love, only love, could heal our brokenness.” This quote sets the tone for a moving collection of poetry, centered around the author's disappointments in love and her quest to achieve self-love.
The collection is sixty poems in length, broken into three sections, with a pertinent quote segueing each transition. The bulk of the individual poems are under a page in length; some are merely a few lines. The author pours her heart onto the page and it is easy to get caught in a feeling of empathy for her tribulations in love. The pieces are relatable, underscoring the confusion, apathy, and hurt that go hand-in-hand with a failed relationship. The author gradually reveals her awareness that in order to love another, you must first truly love yourself.
What I enjoyed about this book is the vulnerability contained in the author's words. Having my own predilection to poetry, I can appreciate the poignancy of a no-holds-barred approach to this genre. The author's writing style is straightforward, leaving nothing for the reader to unveil or surmise. She is heartfelt and sincere, delivering a raw look at her struggles and the lessons she has learned the hard way.
I did have some hang-ups about the book. First, several of the poems are lacking a title; rather, the title is the first sentence of the poem. If this technique had only been used once, I would have found it creative and intriguing. Secondly, there is a distinct monochromatic tone to the material. I understand the author’s intention to have a congruent theme, but I felt it was overly monotonous and somewhat depressing. I believe this issue would be alleviated if the author selected twenty-five (or so) of her favorite pieces and reformatted this book into a chapbook. She could then revisit a full-length book at a later date, introducing additional themes.
The book was well-polished and free of errors. My preference would be to rate this book 2.5 stars, as I feel measures could be taken to maintain the reader’s interest. Since half-stars aren’t an option, I have rated this book 3 out of 4 stars. All-in-all, it is a nice effort and the author should feel proud of producing a respectable work of poetry.
Notes in the Key of Heartbreak
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