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  • Skylar Hamilton Burris

Five Chapbook Reviews

Old Man Walking by Almira Astudillo Gilles Moon Journal Press, © 1991 ISBN 0-9755795-5-X

This collection of 26 poems spans twenty years of the poet's childhood and young adulthood in the Philippines. Many cataclysmic events occurred during this time in Gilles's life, and the poems explore her early impressions of poverty and social inequality, but not without a sense of nostalgia, for the poet expresses a sense of homesickness for her family and the simplicity of her native land. These poems teach us that no matter how far we travel from the lands that gave us birth, our childhood is never far from us.

The volume contains three photographs but is otherwise unillustrated; the layout is simple and unpretentious, clear and easy on the eyes. The cover contains a simple map-like illustration of the poet's homeland, which Gilles believes looks like a bent man with a cane (thus her title). The poems are free verse and contain some clever imagery that paints a vivid picture in the reader's mind.

The Pilgrim's Lyre by Teresa B. Burleson 1st Books, © 2003, ISBN 1-403387-13-3

This collection of Christian poems is simple yet elegant. The poems are free verse, but they are not without rhythm. The poet's style is concise and occasionally powerful. The imagery and metaphors are appropriate and essential; they are never pretentious or extraneous. Pleasant alliteration will often trip from the tongue should one choose to read the verses aloud. The poems are of varying quality, but my particular favorites are "Willow Lake," "Pilgrimage," "Breakthrough," and "Recycling."

Sonnets for a Soul Mate by Edward F. Cervinski Stellaberry Press, © 2005, ISBN 0-9770100-0-7

This collection of more than 200 sonnets explores a mixture of religious and secular themes. The book is a sort of sonnet cycle, recounting the true story of two people who meet and fall in love but who are soon separated. The poet believes that "everyone is entitled to flirt with the extreme" and "pursue happiness."

The individual poems are sonnets insomuch as they are poems of 14 lines each, though they are written in rhymed couplets rather than a Shakespearean or Petrarchian rhyme scheme. At times the meter sounds a bit off and the lines are occasionally forced to fit the rhyme. There are also some cliches to be found in the pages, but the work is heartfelt, and it is good to see modern poets embracing the sonnet.

A Spleeny Lutheran

by Robert Karl Meyer II

© 2000

In A Spleeny Lutheran, Robert Karl Meyer II presents 29 short poems, many of which depict man's failure to live up to his potential as a being uniquely created in God's image. Yet some of these works are also tinged with a note of quiet hope. In the haunting poem "Tenements of the Soul," for instance, we find the speaker "searching for forgotten magic words" as the "dawn sheds light on dingy slums of gloom, / on my small room, on visions that still bloom."

The author frequently employs allegory, using Arthurian legend and Greek mythology to parallel biblical themes. Although some of the selections are not as well-crafted or effective as others, the chapbook contains many works that embody a depth and seriousness to which most poetry only pretends. The poet, perhaps because he is also a mathematician, delights in the traditional forms most moderns have rejected, using sonnets, rondeaus, and even acrostics. These forms serve to structure and compliment the meaning of the poems, and today's reader, so often deprived of good rhyme and disciplined meter, may find that these works are music to his ears.

Stars Scattered Like Seeds by Jeanne Shannon Wildflower Press, © 2002, ISBN 0-9714343-5-2

This 164-page book, published under the author’s own imprint, interweaves poetry with short fiction and creative memoir. It focuses on the author’s native culture, which is rooted in the southern Appalachian Mountains and subject to inescapable Baptist influences. This world is related to the reader through the eyes of narrator Audrey Yates, and the stories possesses a poetic quality. Some of the poet’s verse, however, relies too heavily on disembodied imagery, although some of her poems succeed in creating a powerful picture.

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