John R. Gregory’s A Collection of Writings II offers 36 free-verse poems that cover a wide scope of topics. Titles indicate broad subjects, such as “Pride,” “Pain,” “Time,” “Humanity,” “Hate,” “Perfect Love,” and “Hope.”
In general, the poems convey simple ideas. In “Humanity,” the author lists a range of people—“Tinkers/ Lovers/ Haters/ Thinkers…”—noting, by poem’s end, that they are all more alike than different: “People all around us/ All different, yet all the same…” The poem “Pain” delineates the ways pain manifests itself: “Pain in your mind/ Pain in your heart/ Pain in your body/ Pain in your spirit.” The speaker concludes that what’s most important is: “Do you control it…or does it control you?” Ten black-and-white photographs, without credits or captions, also appear interspersed throughout the book.
In their current form, these poems are raw and expository. They tell rather than show, report rather than explore. Consider: “[W]hen a lie is found out—and it will, for they always are/ A great sense of confusion flows across the land.” The poems alternate between sweeping generalizations about their title subjects (“Hope of anything is enough:/ Enough to foster a willingness to change”) and lists that read more like shorthand for larger poems yet to be developed (“First light/ First night/ First fright…/ First friend/ First lover/ First job…”) Devoid of powerful imagery or striking insights, such lines fail to engage the reader’s senses, keeping their audience at a distance.
Overall, A Collection of Writings II lacks artful diction, emotional nuance, and concrete detail. Gregory’s poetry would be improved by focusing on particular people, places, and things, and by recounting specific experiences associated with them.
In sum, while these poems will likely appeal to the author’s family and friends, they are too general and abstract in their current form to engage most readers of contemporary poetry.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.