3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
In Those Who Hold Up the Earth, Peter F. Crowley dedicates his poetry anthology to "...those who struggle to get by and who struggle for human dignity in the face of overwhelming odds." Portions of Crowley's collection highlight simple things in life, such as reflections on nature, employees at a pizza joint, and misplaced car keys. However, the recurring theme focuses on society's forgotten, which is especially relevant in light of the current pandemic and protests for racial justice.
The collection is 92 pages, and many of the poems have been previously featured in literary publications, such as Boston Literary Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, and WINK: Writers in the Know. Crowley effectively utilizes the elements of symbolism and imagery. The anthology traverses serious themes, including perseverance, racism, addiction, aging, intolerance, and death. However, Crowley balances weighty topics with lighter reflections. For example, "White Terrorist" is a chilling depiction of white supremacy while "Mint" is an ode to a pet cat who is feeling under the weather.
I particularly appreciate Crowley's ability to eloquently describe foreign countries in a manner that allows readers to envision they are journeying with him. For instance, "From Dhaka to Mawa" conjures scenic images of rickshaws, street vendors, tin homes, rice fields, and lush farmlands in Bangladesh. In "Old City," Crowley tickles the senses with references to Jewish bagels and Arabic coffee before alluding to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
On the other hand, Crowley doesn't use title case, begin lines of stanzas with capital letters, or punctuate consistently, but he also doesn't commit to a non-traditional approach. Regarding capitalization, the table of contents and poem titles are a hodgepodge of inconsistency. Likewise, some stanzas are punctuated, while others in the same poem are not. It is certainly the author's prerogative to not follow either traditional or modern conventions, but jumping back and forth may be perceived as a lack of intentionality; I find the inconsistency distracting. I did not count Crowley's stylized absence of punctuation as errors. However, the book lacks a professionally edited presentation due to the problematic table of contents in addition to the incorrect capitalizations of several common nouns.
For all of the above reasons, I rate Those Who Hold Up the Earth 3 out of 4 stars. The insightful collection will appeal to poetry lovers as well as readers who relate to the themes that Crowley addresses. The book contains several instances of profanity.
Those Who Hold Up the Earth
View: on Bookshelves