New Rivers Press (2022)
Reviewed by Sacha Fortune for Reader Views (01/2023)
“Antipodes” is a delight for anyone with a flair for word play. As an admirer of poetry of all kinds, I found it impressive to have a body of work that strives to achieve an equal balance that evokes such powerful sentiment while adhering to a rigid structure.
One key theme is the author’s background as a Native American. From the opening piece “America de’Colonizer,” both the original version and its reflected antipode convey the destruction of colonization, encapsulated best in these lines:
Homecoming, we’re nobility displaced. Dethrone well-mistaken kings. [original]
[…] king’s mistaken, we’ll dethrone displaced nobility. We’re coming home. [reverse]
An even more powerful piece addressing this theme is “Just Me Giving Thanks,” which has such vivid imagery in these lines that are perfectly mirrored:
[…] blood and massacres were here second. Resilience and strength were first [original]
First were strength and resilience. Second here were massacres and blood. [reverse]
Though a different theme, “Panic Building Walls” also felt comparable to these two, evoking a sense of destruction amidst the great “America” as it exposes the hidden underbelly of truth within society as it crumbles beneath our watchful eyes, giving us this amazing line either way:
Action dictates character as inaction molds complacency. [original]
Complacency molds inaction as character dictates action. [reverse]
Another I liked, “Like Love in Fall” alludes to the changing times of the education system: from “snow an’ uphill miles” to “war zones” and “technology over bowed heads” as well as professors that are more interested in “tenure” and “blackmail” than educating their students; the death of knowledge.
My favorite of the collection, though, was “Awakening Bedrooms of Monsters” which depicts the confusion of a child in an abusive home. It is crafted beautifully, evoking a sense of horror that goes far beyond the typical “monster” a child is afraid of, to reveal that the true monsters may be the parents that neglect and abuse:
Monsters of bedrooms awakening in stumbles. Baby, the nightmares mean experience. […] There is truth and there are lies. Your eyes are closed—we offered prayers to deaf gods. [original]
God’s deaf to prayers offered. We closed our eyes. Your lies are there and truth is there. […] Experience mean nightmares. The baby stumbles in, awakening bedrooms of monsters. [reverse]
These I mentioned are just a few that stood out to me, but each is its own creative masterpiece. I also noticed the recurrent imagery of animals (especially wolves), bones, religious/spiritual references, demons, alcoholism, childhood trauma, and much more — all of which tie the poems together into a cohesive cocktail of emotion, damage, and embittered survival, and I found this deeply moving as a reader.
With the experimental form, admittedly there are times when some lines are difficult to interpret, but they invite you to read and re-read to determine the meaning, and then compare it to its opposite — and of course, poetry is not always intended to be perfectly clear, but to make you think!
I admired the talent and dedication to create this body of work while adhering to such strict rules, and I appreciated the chance to read this collection. Despite the choice of style that may be elusive to some, the themes it touches on are universal and beautifully explored. I highly recommend if you like poetry and are a fan of literature and literary forms.