Score: 95/100 (9.5 out of 10)
Wow! We're impressed! Poems from Heartlands by Dr. C.A. Buckley is a masterful, sophisticated, elegant collection of poems. We have no choice but to give it our highest-ever rating for a poetry book.
These poems show a level of refinement that we've rarely seen. It seems clear that Dr. Buckley is an experienced writer and poet. She has been sharpening her sword and honing her craft for years if not decades. We'd be shocked if this were her first rodeo.
So, what makes us say all of this praise? Well, the answer is complicated. For one, Dr. Buckley really understands meter, consistency, repetition, and beats. She demonstrates a mastery of these things.
In terms of meter and consistency, at least 80% of these poems (by our estimation) are beautifully tight and symmetrical. What exactly does that mean? Well, that means that ultimately means that they're well-structured and consistently structured. When the poet picks tercets, she sticks to tercets (as in “Villanelle”). When the poet picks quatrains, she sticks to quatrains (as in “The Ballad of the Swimming Dog”--arguably the best poem in the book). When the poet chooses to alternate between sestets and quatrains, she sticks to alternating between sestets and quatrains (as in “Death of a Populist”).
Very rarely (if ever) do you find “orphaned” lines or words that just stick out like a sore thumb like in other poems out there. You do get times when the poet uses long stanzas, then sandwiches single lines between them for emphasis (as in “Hair”--a poem that says a lot more beyond its simple subject matter—and “To Scellig Michael with Aine”).
In terms of repetition, look at the poem titled “Villanelle.” It hinges on the constant and consistent repetition of the motif “Life in itself is not enough.” This line occurs over and over again with new or evolving contexts. This is also masterfully executed in “To Scellig Michael with Aine.”
There's no simple explanation for most of these poems, the interpretation is up to the reader. That's arguably the way poetry should be.
The only thing we sorta didn't like about the book was the art including the cover. The art looks like doodles and doesn't match the regal, sophisticated, refined tone of the poems in the book. At the same time, this art is accompanied by hand-written parts of the poems. This might help the book to seem “lived in” and “effortful.” It's similar to when you see the sketches of Disney characters before their movies were released. It helps you to appreciate the journey and process. This is also the third-most religious poetry book we've read in the last three months, so keep that in mind as well.
You can check this out on Amazon!