First of all, I would like to thank Megan O’Keeffe for sending me an ARC of her poetry collection Where I Ache to read and review! I am quite late in giving my review, due to busyness in my work life, and so I do apologize for that. But I am here now and I am very happy to share my thoughts on O’Keeffe’s collection. I believe this is her second poetry collection, and I am looking forward to seeing her hone her craft.
That said, I did have some issues with this collection, and there are many places where O’Keeffe can improve.
Before I go into the issues, I would like to point out the good parts of O’Keeffe’s poetry.
I love that this whole collection is basically introspection. I think it is this description of self-awareness and introspection that does and will allow readers to really connect with her words. Personally, I have found many of my own feelings in O’Keeffe’s lines of poetry.
O’Keeffe writes in a very straightforward manner, which, while not really my style, is very accessible to those who are either unfamiliar with poetry, or who just don’t get it. She states her meaning plainly and doesn’t disguise anything.
Another thing that O’Keeffe writes very clearly is her social commentary. It’s done in an observer’s, an experiencer’s, perspective, and I think that’s why it works so well for this genre. It’s not hidden, though still leaves room for readers to interpret.
Unfortunately, for me, these positive aspects of Where I Ache do not overpower the negative aspects.
Overall, O’Keeffe’s writing style is very juvenile, and it is reminiscent of the style used by poets like Rupi Kaur and Amanda Lovelace. There is no real craft involved in terms of the verses (I don’t even know if I could call them verses), and O’Keeffe relies a lot on emotion to make these verses poetic.
There are certain poems in which she begins to have a rhyming scheme, but doesn’t stick to it and abandons it halfway through the poem. I understand that this was done for emphasis, but it feels more as if the rhymes are there just to be there, rather than for any other poetic purpose.
The structure and format of the collection is also somewhat juvenile, in that O’Keeffe doesn’t use spacing for emphasis like many more mature poets use. Instead she actually bolds or italicizes the words, which, while very straightforward, doesn’t leave much for the reader’s brain to do or focus on.
Altogether, the structure feels very much like reading a teenager’s diary.
Overall, I think that O’Keeffe has a lot of potential as a poet and a writer, but she needs to work on her craft a bit more, maybe go a bit out of the box next time.
My many issues with this collection aside, here are the poems from this collection that I thought stood out more than the rest in terms of a more mature composition:
“Please Don’t Sugar Coat this for Me”
“The Mind’s Maze”
“Bright As Stars”
“It’s All Wrong”
“No One Cries for the Sinners”
O’Keeffe is not a poet that I would call a “wordsmith,” and while her craft is still very simple, I know that readers are loving and will love this collection for its simplicity and accessibility, as well as for its relatability regarding introspection and mental health.
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It’s bad. Simply put, it’s bad. That’s the long story short. But I want to make the story long.
All of these poetry collections by people like Rupi Kaur and others of the same ilk are made with zero care for the craft that is poetry. These collections are filled with one-liners that fill a whole page, sometimes a whole two pages. It is done not for beauty or poetry, but for the shock value, the trend of writing down profound statements and calling it poetry. Because of these poets, the real wordsmiths are forgotten. They aren’t popular, their works tend to be much more lengthy, and many people just don’t get poetry. They’re not taught how to get poetry, and this uneducated audience is what makes these frauds so successful.
Recently I tried to read Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer. I started reading this collection under the very wrong impression that it was going to be full of myth and the use of Aphrodite as a complex and interesting concept and character. This collection is full of those one-liners, full of the whines and self-pity that publishers seem to be eating up. There is no depth to the work, just the same old collection of nothings. I wish I could say this is the only time this year I have been promised a full and promising poetry collection and came away disappointed. Good news is that the art in Aphrodite Made Me Do It is rather intriguing. Perhaps Mateer should stick with the art and not the poetry.
One-line poetry isn’t bad. No indeed it can be used to great effect, setting off lengthy poems with anti-climactic ends, or even climactic ones. But those who put this type of poetry to the best uses are forgotten. The only reasons I know about better poets are the facts that I am a poet myself, that I go looking for it, that I’ve studied poetry in all its forms for some time.
Again, if only more people were exposed to poetry in well-rounded and in-depth ways. But, to all of you out there who want to have a better understanding of poetry, or want to read better poetry, here are some resources that will set you on the right track:
Medium: there are so many poets on Medium, it would take more than a lifetime to read them all. But that is good, and there is so much variety among the poems and poets themselves – plenty of niches to curl into.
Literary Magazines and Journals: There is a plethora of literary journals and magazines that focus on or include poetry, and most are easily accessible. You can just google “literary journal” or “poetry journal” and you’ll be given many options. However, if you want a comprehensive list, I would suggest looking at Poets and Writers and well as Poetry Foundation. Many colleges and universities also have their own literary journals, so look there too!
Here are some of my favorite literary and poetry journals:
Short Édition’s Short Circuit
There are so many other wonderful poets to read. Let’s leave behind shock value, and embrace the beauty of wordsmithing again.
I submitted my poem “Visiting a Jewish Cemetery, 2010” to the contest by Short Edition called “America: Color it in” and it is in the running! The winners get to donate to an anti-racism cause of their choice.
If you like my poem, please consider voting for it! Currently it is in 5th place.
Also read the other poems of these talented writers and vote for them too! We need to recognize more voices, especially more diverse voices during these times.
So most of you probably know, but if you didn’t know, I am a poet and I just recently published a collection of my poems!
The collection, Loss And Other Landscapes, has poems inspired by nature and the environment, by ancient poets such as Vergil, by mythology, and my own personal experiences.
Thank you all very much, and thank you for sticking with me through all my rants and reviews.