Restoration by the Waters Edge by Tony Caico is a heartwarming and inspirational collection of Christian-based poems emphasizing that there is hope for salvation for everyone including lost sheep.
Just be aware that this is probably the most didactic and preachy poetry collection we've seen, even more so than A Poetic Spanking by Anthony Toomer. So, this might not be the poetry book for everyone. It might be off-putting for people who are atheists or are put off by hyper-religious texts. At the same time, if you're spiritual and/or a Christian, this could be a powerful and inspirational book.
As a poetry book, there is something to be desired. It's really hard to describe why that is. You know like when you just have a feeling that something feels off or missing? It is entirely possible that we are just spoiled and our expectations for poetry books have been raised too high. We were spoiled this season by poetry books by Anthony Toomer, Michael Cook, and also Patricia Stanway. It is very clear and obvious what the author is trying to say most of the time, propping up Christianity and providing hope for victory over addiction through one's faith and trust in God. That is definitely a message worth spreading, and the author pours his heart and soul into it. He does, however, do a lot of telling. And his rhyme schemes are usually quite simplistic. At least he attempts them though.
By far, Caico's favorite poetic design is the use of couplets. He uses this in a very traditional way, sticking to what we'd call an “AA/BB/CC” rhyme scheme. It's about as simple and straightforward as you can possible get in terms of poetry. One of our favorite Caico poems that uses this metre and rhyme scheme is “Chasing the Rabbit.” The special thing about this poem is that it does have a deeper and broader meaning than its words. There is the literal race between the dogs and there are figurative races—the rat races—among the people in this “human sport.” There's another race—a spiritual race toward one's physical death—like the one that Paul figuratively runs in 2 Timothy 4:7. The poem also speculates about things like what the dogs actually have to gain from winning as they see none of the prize money that goes to their owners and have no use for material wealth beside maybe food. Dogs have their own coat of fur. They don't need clothes. They really do it because it makes their owners happy and they want to make their owners happy and be loved. Perhaps that's how we should view our relationships with God over material wealth? Maybe we should seek to be right with God over being rich in our own minds.
Other couplet poems like “Breaking the Chains” and “Treasure Map” are very clear and obvious in their meanings. They might read kind of plainly, but they are structurally quite beautiful. He is not trying to win a rap battle like Anthony Toomer or get deep into the weeds like Michael Cook. He's also not trying to be Shakespeare. He's preaching a very clear message to an audience that needs to hear it.
Our thought is this: Caico is an excellent communicator and writer. He's a good poet too. We actually wish he'd just stuck to writing the prose parts and fleshing them out. They were the most interesting and got the point across. At the same time, again, he is a good and solid poet. Furthermore, his poetry is more than poetry, it was his coping mechanism along with prayer for the longest time—through very tough times. We can't fault him on that.
We really want to say: the real-life stories he tells in the prose are powerful, beautiful, inspirational, and infinitely touching. We really hoped that he might actually just keep talking about them and sharing his stories. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at things), they mainly serve to set up and give context to his poems. Instantly, what happens when a poet does that is it defies the theory that the author is dead. The audience is supposed to be interpreting the text for themselves, not the author. But we can definitely understand why he did it. He's a preacher. He has a lot to say about something near and dear to his heart, and prose is the clearest and most direct way to do that.
It is also a treat to see some of the images in this book.
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