Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Perception is a phenomenal, diverse collection of poems by members of the poetry group Different Leaves, Same Leaves. It was nominated by Joseph McGovern and dedicated to a “Mrs. Kathleen Gowdy” who may have been instrumental in bringing the group together. It is said to be a “compilation of passion embodied” to showcase the artistic, creative craft of poetry.
We were impressed by the complexity and skill demonstrated by many of these poets. Seriously!
Some of these poems read like something out of General Jack by David Bush or Sacred by O'Cyrus—some of the most eloquent, elegantly-written books we read this year (the latter being a poetry book).
This isn't just some fly by night, hastily thrown together poetry collection. No. This book is written and compiled with so much love and care. It has so much heart and soul. It goes above and beyond to be a great book. One thing is clear: the sum of this book's parts is so much better than the individual poems, many of which are already very good. All of these poems—together—elevate each other to a new level.
Several of these poems particularly stood out to us.
Deeply Involved with... Just a Thought by Alex Garcia appears to be mess (perhaps a marvelous mess), alternating between different stanza and line lengths. Although it is an eyesore, it also has some of the most interesting, compelling storytelling of any poem in the compilation. On the surface, it appears to be written by a frustrated, scorned, and disrespected ex-lover. However, there is arguably a deeper meaning or interpretation to all of this. We're not exactly sure what the poet intended, but following death of the author theory, we interpreted it to be written from the perspective of God: someone who has given everything—life, love, food, water, shelter, family, and friends—to the beloved only to be met with scorn, disrespect, and lack of appreciation.
There appear to be hints and clues scattered throughout the poem that this narrative is from the perspective of God. For example, “I am” statements are used to describe this person. Their unspoken name is said to be “priceless” and “[none] greater than this.” There are also evocations of a “prophet”--a term which would imply a religious angle.
Furthermore, this entity sounds full of a combination of both love and wrath. There are also such phrases as “pimpin' my name out” and “Ministerial Mercenary” (implying that the name of God is misused to achieve a person's or organization's personal agenda).
Another interpretation is that the entity may just simply be “Thought” itself. As Descarte would say, “cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am”).
The Trichotomy of a Love Triangle, also by Alex Garcia, discusses multiple different types of love: filial, familial, and eros. While this isn't really that unique or special as a concept, it did give us some beautiful lines. The part that stood out to us was regarding the poet's deceased mother:
“...with complete sacrifice she eliminated herself from the equation just so I could have a place on this earth. She knew exactly what I was worth and saw fit to grant me the gift of life through birth.”
The words grateful, multiple, and unconditional are later rhymed, presenting us with three different uses of the “uhl” sound.
The word and fragment “act” occurs multiple times as a sort of motif in words like act, subtract, fraction, exactly, reactive, action.
The second part of the poem rhymes words like blood line, intertwined, and divine--hanging on the “I” sound. Even the words chromosomes and bones are paired--hanging on the “O” sound.
Haterz by Marcus Hayes dared to rhyme the word Prozac with “heel [sic] those bedsores on your back.” Unfortunately, the incorrect spelling of “heal” is used here. This particular poem also has one of the most clear and didactic messages, speaking out against racism against Black people. The fact that it uses many of the buzz words that make up the group's name (“root” and “trees”) make us think that perhaps the poet was given the prompt and may have rushed this poem a little. It still features some nice rhymes like the aforementioned Prozac and back as well as together and weather.
A Week, a Month, a Year... by Nicholas Raspanti uses some gorgeously illustrative language like river of time, road of time, crossroads of time, and median of eternity. These different descriptions of time give the reader the impression that time is fluid and changing, and that many of our perceptions of time and the events that have happened in them are just that: perceptions.
What's the Weather Like Up There...? by Alex Garcia features the phrase Rays of Decisions paired with the word vision, implying that there are many different choices that the poet could make in the situation they're in, and that this is creating a kind of paralysis by analysis. We've noticed something about Alex Garcia's poems. Their poems, when read aloud, are beautiful, but they could use a second hand or pair of eyes to go in and refine them. If they were formatted a little better, perhaps without all the ellipses and clunky parts that look like prose, they'd be perfect poems. Garcia clearly has it, just not all of it (yet..............)
Why the Ocean Stops at the Shore by the aptly-named K(c)onscience stands on the complete opposite side of the spectrum: a much more rigidly and traditionally styled poems with clean, consistent rhyme and line schemes alternating between couplets and tercets, creating almost a pseudo-ghazal poem. Every verse has its own rhyme scheme that seems to emphasize vowel sounds, clinging to the “ur”/”or” sound as in pure, sure, shore, more, answers, and winter; the “I” sound as in time, mind, pride, and thrive; the “A” sound as in pain and rain.
New Root is a powerful and effective beat-type poem by KG. We noticed the emphasis on the “T” sound in tumbled, task, and trowel; the “C” sound in cracked, collapsed, echo, seconds, and cadaver.
Amalgam by KG features one of our favorite rhymes, pairing aligned with labyrinthine, words that share the “I” sound, but that conjure opposite images: one implies a more straight-forward path while the other implies a branching one.
I Am Only a Man by K(c)onscience was one of the poems we noted as “cringe” because it mostly employs techniques like rhyming the same words (although it could be argued this is done as anaphora and for emphasis) and speak the obvious. Thankfully, the poet's other words redeemed them.
The Unopened Gift by Christopher Dunn is a somewhat adorable love poem, although it could be interpreted as the poet acknowledging the vice/fallacy of putting their happiness into the hands of someone else.
Remora by Zander Tippett beautifully pairs the lines blue green with marine, giving you gorgeous aquatic imagery. They also rhyme the words ascend and distend as well as prison, horizon, ocean, and cauldron, words that share very similar sounds yet have very different meanings, evoking very different imagery.
Zander Tippet also wrote Natural, a poem which features the phenomenal quote,
“I think it strange some would claim something to be unnatural
When everything that is and was, and everything that can be
Is nothing more than reset pieces of a universal puzzle.”
You can almost feel Newton's first law of thermodynamics encapsulated in here, giving the universe an eerie yet strangely comforting sense of familiarity and consistency.
There's even a little story in here by Zander Tippet about having an existential moment after catching a mouse in a trap and struggling to end its suffering. It's actually a very interesting and empathetic tale. Anyone who has been troubled by the suffering of an animal (hopefully the grand majority of us) can empathize with this experience.
There's also a very powerful, touching, and sad story about a poet whose mom suffered and passed away from breast cancer.
The art in this book by Christopher Lee (wait... we're assuming this isn't Count Dracula/Saruman/Count Dooku) range from cool to decent to interesting to unfinished and off putting. It was mostly unnecessary, although we appreciate the effort to add a little extra something to this book. The illustrations on page 74, 77, 104, and 120 look rather cool. The characters look like they could appear in a manga. The scene in 139 of the children watching a house burning is chilling and interesting. The art on pages 76, 155, and 177 fail to impress and don't seem to add anything to the poems that weren't already better illustrated in words. The art on 233 looks like it was going in a good direction, but the artist fell asleep or just neglected to color the rest of the figure. We're not putting much weight into the art either way. It is what it is. If anything, it shows that some extra effort was made to make this book stand out.
Something very funny about this book, but that we can easily look past, is that it seemingly features dozens upon dozens of acknowledgments. This isn't entirely unfounded since short-story collections often feature biographical sections after each story, but it did make us chuckle a bit when we had to stop between poems to hear about some poet's 2nd grade PE teacher or their great uncle five-times over being an inspiration to them (ok, we're kinda exaggerating with those two examples, but you get the point).
All in all, this is a really impressive and fascinating collection of poems that features some stand out works!
Check it out on Amazon!