Book Review: Poems that Might or Might Not Change Your Life, by Charlie Clouse

There are a couple of things I need to say before I can get to the actual review of this book. First, I don’t usually review books that consist of nothing but poetry. There’s a reason for this. Poetry is so personal, so subjective, that it’s really hard to review it properly. Either you feel something when you read it or you don’t, and what you feel might not be anything at all like what the author felt or would want you to feel. If you review it as objectively as possible, you can review meter, rhyme, style, and type of poem, and yet, so many who write poetry don’t even bother with those things any more. That’s not really a good thing either. A quick perusal of Poetry Soup and you can see the poetic types: Iambic pentameter, acrostic, epigram, epic, alliteration, cinquain, monoku, and so many more.

So I didn’t know what to expect when I received this book for review, a book that contained nothing but poetry in it. I cringe when I see it, because I know that a book of poetry is usually sealed up with all sorts of very personal emotions from the poet, and I’m supposed to review it somewhat clinically, and how are you supposed to take someone’s feelings and critique them?

So keep in mind as I review this book, I’m being somewhat technical and objective, when poetry is more an experience, a subjectiveness that requires the person to be transported to a place of emotion. Fiction transports us to another place; poetry transports us to an emotional place. But to review poetry, one must detach from that and be objective. I hate doing that, but here goes:

POEMS THAT MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT CHANGE YOUR LIFE: THE COVER

The book cover is simplistic. I wasn’t sure what to expect inside, because the cover, quite frankly, disappoints. It’s solid white, with black font. It looks like something created in a Word Document, not an eye-catching cover that reveals the importance of the emotional connection inside. It’s drab and disappointing. It looks absolutely horrible online, because of the solid white cover, against a white background on most websites, causes the cover to blend in and essentially disappear against the website. A border around the cover image online would make a huge improvement.

The title case is wrong, which doesn’t really help entice someone to want to pick up the book. The title case reads: Poems that Might or might not Change your Life. Might is capitalized first but not the second time. Personal pronouns (Your) are always capitalized in titles. When the publisher and/or author can’t even bother to get the title right, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the book. This is so crucial. The cover and the title are what people see before they ever look at anything else.

POEMS THAT MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT CHANGE YOUR LIFE: FORMATTING

So what about the interior? The formatting looks like it was set for a much smaller book than the actual book size. The page numbers are at about 3/4 of the way down the page, not at the bottom where page numbers belong. The thank yous and acknowledgement pages have the font in tiny columns on an entirely blank white page. It looks like the margins and settings for the pages were for a smaller book than what was printed. It really doesn’t look professional on the interior formatting at all. There is no header for author and title either.

POEMS THAT MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT CHANGE YOUR LIFE: THE POETRY

Now, the important part: are the poems any good? Yes, quite a few of them are good. Even so, they are dated. I mean, literally dated. There is the title and then next to it is the date. I don’t understand why the author or the publisher decided to do this. It makes no difference to the reader when the poem was written and merely serves to date the poem, which takes away from it the sense of timelessness that poetry should have. If the poem is going to be dated, why not include with it a little memoir explanation of the poem and what was happening at the time it was written? Otherwise, there is no reason for the date. The author might have had a fantastic memoir poetry book that way, allowing the reader a little insight into the history of the poem, the meaning behind it. I, for one, would have really enjoyed that.

A huge percentage of the poems are untitled. Instead of just leaving the title off, the poet and/or the publisher has chosen to put ‘Untitled’ as the title. If you’re going to present a professionally prepared book of poetry, I personally think one should take the time to title the poems.

One poem, on page 81, is nothing more than one line:

Work (part one) 6/9/03

Nobody wants to be here.

While I can agree with the sentiment, this is NOT a poem. There is no meter. There is no style that it meets that I can tell. I counted syllables. I counted words. I can’t match it to any known poetry style, so it basically means this is nothing but a written sentiment, but it’s not a poem. I, who started my writing career as a poet myself (my first published book was a book of poetry and personal essays), was asked once to write an article for a small poetry ezine entitled “How to Write a Good Poem”, and in that article, I quoted Oscar Wilde as having said, “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.” I am not saying this book is full of bad poetry–because it’s not, some of it is quite interesting and moving–but a sentiment of one line that is nothing but genuine feeling about a subject does not a poem make.

When I read these poems, I can feel the poet’s emotions. What I like better in poetry is for the poet to make me feel my own emotions, instead of leading me to feeling what he is feeling.

POEMS THAT MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT CHANGE YOUR LIFE: EDITING

Many people might not realize that even poems should be edited. Unless a word use is important to the meaning of the poem, such as slang or dialogue used in an inappropriate manner on purpose, the words used in a poem should be the proper ones for the meaning and they should be spelled properly. Sentence structure should still be properly used, with commas where they belong for either pause, emphasis or correct grammatical structure, and there are many instances of missing commas in this book. There were a couple of instances where the wrong word was used. There’s a line in one poem, “I use to write poetry” when what was meant was “I used to write poetry”. These things are important, and a good editor should review poetry for little things like this to help present the poet in the best light.

POEMS THAT MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT CHANGE YOUR LIFE: OVERALL EVALUATION

Here is an emotive poetry book that some will enjoy. It could have been more professionally presented, but the poems are something many can relate to. This is not stiff, boring poetry. It is living poetry about things people in today’s world can understand and connect with. While the poet pays little attention to meter, style or rhyme, the emotive aspect of the poetry is clear, and for many readers, will carry the experience. If you’re a poetry lover, this book will likely please you and move you. If you don’t love poetry, there might still be something here that makes you nod your head in agreement or understanding. It’s people’s poetry, life poetry, and overall, I enjoyed reading it, even if I couldn’t connect with it myself and in many instances didn’t consider what I was reading to be poetry.

I hope the poet considers some of my earlier comments, so that any future volumes of poetry by this poet are presented in a more professional light, so that the poetry gets a chance to be showcased perfectly, like it deserves, so it can reach a further audience it deserves. If you like reading poetry, I do recommend this book. If poetry isn’t your cup of tea, this one probably won’t move you enough to be worth the purchase. The price is reasonable for a small-press published book. However, though it is listed on Amazon.com, it doesn’t currently appear that it is sold or fulfilled through Amazon.com.

Charlie Clouse’s website: http://www.hounddogbooks.com/about.html

Stop by and say hello to the author and check out his offerings.

 

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One comment to Book Review: Poems that Might or Might Not Change Your Life, by Charlie Clouse

  • Charlie Clouse (author reply)  says:

    Hi Michy,

    Thanks for reviewing the book “Poems That Might Or Might Not Change Your Life”. The second printing of the book will be a lot better. The one that you received was the first printing. The e-book version of the book has titles for all the poems not just “Untitled” and I corrected the book title. Thank you for your input. I will take a closer look at the book and make the necessary changes. Thanks once again for your honest review.

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