2 out of 4 stars
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Heaven, Hell and Magical Soup: A Tapestry of Words & Songs by Joe Williams is a unique collection of poetry woven together by various themes. The author tells his story through ‘ragmen.’ These ragmen are representative of various icons and emotions. For example, there is a ragman named Petty, and another named Buddha; some others are named Joyous, Christ, and Angry. These ragmen use ‘rags,’ or poetry, to discuss various emotions, religious beliefs, current events, and more. The author performs these poems as songs but has chosen to capture them in written word for all to experience.
The messages emphasized throughout this work may not be unique; however, the author’s use of clever poetic devices enhanced the work and made his words standout. The author consistently uses homophones to stress a point. Namely, the definition of the characters as ragmen. This title suggests an implicit image of those less fortunate; however, their name is also descriptive of the enlightening and thought-provoking rags, or stories, poems, etc. that each ragman (and one ragwoman) imparts on the reader. Though some rags were more successful in conveying the author’s message than others, the overall story the author weaves is encouraging.
Unfortunately, there were some detractors to the author’s message. The formatting in Heaven, Hell and Magical Soup is quite lacking. First off, the table of contents does not include page numbers for each poem listed. To find a specific poem one has to scroll through the book in hopes of stopping on the correct page. Additionally, it was difficult to tell when the narration stopped and a rag began. The titles of the poems are not highlighted in anyway; many times poems start in the middle of a page, and, typically, there wasn’t even an additional space to separate the poem's title from the paragraph above it or from the poem starting below it. Occasionally, titles appeared in all caps, but this was rare. Further, there are quite a few random line breaks in the middle of a sentence in the narration (not the poetry) which made reading confusing in places.
In addition to the inefficient formatting, there were a few grammatical errors that gave me pause. For example, in one instance, a ragman’s attire is described as ‘rough and course;’ clearly the word ‘coarse’ was intended. Another instance is when ‘ore’ is used as an abbreviation of ‘over’ in place of ‘o’re.’ Without the apostrophe to indicate the shortened version of ‘over’ this word has a completely different meaning and gives the poetry an amateurish appearance.
Though the premise of Heaven, Hell and Magical Soup was unique and the overall message the author touts was engaging at times, the poor formatting significantly distracted from my reading enjoyment. Clearer organization and additional proofreading would improve the clarity of this work. In its current state, I rate Heaven, Hell and Magical Soup 2 out of 4 stars. Readers who enjoy poetry and are looking for something a little unusual may find merit in this work; however, if you aren’t impressed by poetry or are a stickler for straightforward formatting, this one may not be for you.
Heaven Hell and Magical Soup
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