I received Dress Whites by Richard Gilmore Loftus in the mail from the bookstore last Thursday morning. I finished it on Friday (Oct. 22, 2021). Read it in two days. Usually, I take my time reading poetry collections. But I couldn’t put this one down. Have several new favorite poems from this collection.
From “Jazz” to “Sparrow” to “Come Hither” to “Among the Sonnets,” Loftus’s imagery will surprise and captivate you as it did me. Crisp and elegant, his phrases and poems satisfy and enchant. Loftus effectively emphasizes the connection between nature and personal growth and outlook. Water functions as an ongoing symbol throughout the collection. From the mystery of a “dark river / gurgling through the night” in the “History of Religion” to “the wet in the wind touches her cheek” as a wife waits for her fisherman husband to come home in “Shetland Islands.”
I’ve already read some of the poems more than once or twice. Everything captivates, from the cover art to the last poem, “An Old Orange Boat.” For a debut poetry collection, this is a moving, emotional, superlative offering.
Richard Gilmore Loftus’s poetry is new to me. But, based on this collection, I’ll pick up his other books of poetry. And look forward to being entertained and enlightened by them as well as this assortment of poems did.
For a review of another poetry collection that I’ve enjoyed, check here.
Shana Marlayna Chow’s second book of poetry, I Tried to Write Love Poems, is a moving tribute to love and strength. This second book is as solid as her first, Love Gone Savage. (See my review here.) The dedication, “to anyone going through the unrelenting pain of a heart break,” epitomizes a vision of heartbreak and love gone wrong.
Chow extends hope to anyone who “went back to him so fragile” or “didn’t know where to turn.” Strength exudes from lines such as “she pre-planned her escape/and never looked back.” There is a sense that the woman in the poems is split in two. She’s on the inside longing to get free. Or, she’s on the outside looking in at her life before and wondering about how she had accepted the berating and manipulation. “He was manipulation at its finest.”
Occasionally, the poems read more like aphorisms from a complacent counselor than poems that swim amid love and pain. For example,
If you try to understand why someone hurt you, instead of reacting to the hurt, you will be healed quicker, than carrying the anger in your soul.
Heartbreak and Love Gone Wrong
In the end, Chow’s poems focus on how people must find love, happiness and acceptance within themselves. “Control your happiness by finding it within yourself first.” Attentiveness, making peace with the past, fearlessness, confidence—these things lead through the heartbreak to the sunshine.
We all have both tornadoes and sunshine in all of us. Surround yourself with those that bring out your sunshine.
The poems in Love Gone Savage by Shana Marlayna Chow grip you in a vice. From the instant you begin reading they pull you into a world of love, trust, distrust and brokenness on the one hand and optimism and perseverance on the other. These poems are not about cooing and infatuation, but about love somehow gone awry.
Sylvia watched the sailboats
outside her window
and heard the carillon
chime an elegy
The remnants of her love
fell around her
like flakes of soot
in the harsh glare of complexity
The sun, loud and clear
glanced of the beauty
and circled her iron patience
in its altered dimensions
will take pity
on her boredom,
exquisite and excessive
And sting her again
with the astringency
of witch hazel.